Vail lodge, hospital work on land trade
What’s the plan?
What: Renovation of Vail Valley Medical Center.
Change most people will notice: Moving the hospital’s entrance and emergency department, and moving most vehicle traffic from West Meadow Drive to South Frontage Road.
Total cost: Current estimates price the project at about $100 million.
When will construction start? Work could begin in the spring of 2015.
VAIL — There’s a lot of technical work to finish before construction can begin on an extensive renovation plan for Vail Valley Medical Center. And that work may lead, eventually, to redevelopment of a longtime Vail lodge.
The medical center and owners of the Evergreen Lodge are currently negotiating an exchange of two roughly equivalent-sized pieces of land. If the deal goes through, then the medical center will trade the west part of its existing parking lot to the Evergreen in exchange for land on the northeast corner of the Evergreen’s property. That land is now mostly a parking lot.
The swap would clear land for the medical center to add more building footage, as well as more potential space for a full-sized roundabout on South Frontage Road. Current discussions expect the roundabout to be about the same size as the one in West Vail on the south side of Interstate 70. The roundabout would be funded through some sort of cost-sharing deal between the medical center, the lodge and the town, which would probably use the roundabout to get vehicles in and out of the municipal campus. Details of that project will be hammered out in future discussions between the medical center, the Evergreen Lodge and the town.
The Evergreen, in turn, would receive land that could help the lodge in a potential redevelopment plan of its own.
George Ruther, head of the Vail Community Development Department, said a future redevelopment of the Evergreen property is anticipated, but no discussions on specifics have been held between the town and the lodge’s owner — Solaris developer Peter Knobel. Ruther also said there’s no specific schedule for future redevelopment on the property.
Ruther said if the Evergreen eventually acquires land adjacent to West Meadow Drive, then it could allow hotel guests to have direct pedestrian access to West Meadow Drive. That could be similar to the Four Seasons hotel in Vail. There, guests arrive by car on the north side and are able to walk out to West Meadow Drive on the south.
While that exchange is being negotiated, medical center officials have asked for a slight change in the town’s approval process.
Here’s how it would work, according to Ruther:
• The medical center and town officials are currently working on a master plan for future renovations at the hospital. That plan will govern future uses and development on the site.
• While still working on approval of the overall plan, medical center and town officials will work on a plan to build an addition of between 25,000 and 35,000 square feet on the west side of the existing hospital.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Since the hospital has to remain completely open during construction, medical center CEO Doris Kirchner said the addition on the west side has to be completed first. Once that work is done, various medical offices can be moved into the new structure to allow work to start on a renovation of the eastern portion of the hospital’s campus.
The plan for the western addition and the overall plan will be finished at about the same time, which Ruther called a more efficient way to move the entire, complex plan through the town’s approval process.
That process has been delayed by the negotiations for the land swap, but Kirchner on Tuesday told council members that the medical center still needs to start work in the spring of 2015 in order to keep its costs somewhat under control.
If the current schedule holds, then work on the western portion of the project will be complete in 2016, with work on the eastern portion starting in 2017.
As the planning proceeds, Ruther told council members that planners, planning commission members and medical center officials have “addressed or responded to” about 90 percent of the questions and potential problems remaining with the project.
Perhaps the biggest of those problems is relocating the medical center’s helipad from its current location — just west of the town’s community development department offices — to a site not quite 200 feet to the south and west, to what’s now the northwest corner of the medical center’s parking structure just off South Frontage Road.
The council will take a long look at the updated plan at its Dec. 16 meeting.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com or @scottnmiller.