Vail may build parking structure at Red Sandstone Elementary School

The town of Vail and the Eagle County School District are talking about adding a four-level parking structure during an extensive renovation of Red Sandstone Elementary School. Work could begin as soon as February of 2018. This is an early artist's conception of what the school and 160-space structure could look like.

By the numbers

• 4: Levels of parking adjacent to Red Sandstone Elementary School.

• 160: Expected spaces at a new parking structure.

• $900,000: Cost of design services.

• $10.5 million: Estimated cost of the structure.

VAIL — Red Sandstone Elementary School is set for extensive renovation work in 2018. A new, town-operated parking structure is likely to be part of that plan.

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday agreed to work with Eagle County Schools on a plan to add a four-level, 160-space parking structure to the site. The council approved spending $900,000 on design services, as well as another $400,000 for soils testing and other professional services.

The estimated cost of the structure itself is about $10.5 million, about $65,000 per space. That per-space figure will increase when design and other costs are included in the mix. In comparison, a 2010 estimate put the per-space cost of expanding the Lionshead Village parking structure at about $100,000 per space.

Paying for the structure

Whatever the final cost, paying for the structure will require some creativity — and cooperation.

Support Local Journalism

Eagle County Schools has agreed to pay 15 percent of the structure’s cost. The town is also planning to use property tax money generated by the Vail Reinvestment Authority. That entity was created to fund public improvements in Lionshead Village. Vail Town Attorney Matt Mire told the council that authority funds can be used for the structure, since structure users are likely to use the town’s pedestrian overpass that links Lionshead Village with the north side of Interstate 70. But that revenue stream won’t be enough to pay the town’s share of the cost.

Vail Resorts will also be asked to help pay for the structure. The resort company has had a $4.3 million commitment to help build parking in town for years, but the company has to approve any plan before it will write a check.

The current ambivalence of the resort company’s contribution — and a current Aug. 1 timetable for making construction commitments — worries council member Dick Cleveland.

“We should know before Aug. 1 who’s paying for this,” Cleveland said. The town has loaned $12 million to the Chamonix housing development, Cleveland added, and March sales tax revenues fell 14 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Mire told the council that Vail Resorts has certain rights in its funding commitment. The company isn’t yet convinced that this project meets its requirements. But, Mire said, “I am.”

“We’ll get there with (Vail Resorts),” council member Jenn Bruno said. “This money has been sitting for years, and every year it sits it loses more value.

“We have a parking issue,” she added. “This is a creative way to address it. … We have to look at this as an opportunity, even if we don’t have all the answers now.”

While there are a number of questions that need to be answered before the project moves forward, there are some solid ideas already.

‘Where’s the Housing?’

The town and school district have a basic agreement about how the school will use roughly 40 spaces in the structure — during the school year, but not on weekends or school holiday breaks.

There’s also a basic agreement on the way a new road will run from North Frontage Road to the school.

The biggest change will be adding another access point to North Frontage Road. The road now ends at the school. The new alignment will create a one-way road, so motorists don’t have to turn around at the school.

As council members discussed the proposed parking structure, longtime resident Stephen Connolly posed a question:

“This is awesome, but where’s the housing?” Connolly asked, suggesting that the council consider fewer levels of parking in order to build housing.

Council member Greg Moffet replied that the plan calls for stiffening the structure’s supports. That, he said, would allow construction atop the structure in the future.

The structure, Moffet added, will create roughly a half-acre of flat, buildable space out of what’s now a fairly steep hillside.

But whether housing ultimately is built adjacent to the school is a discussion for the future. If this parking structure is eventually approved, then construction will begin in 2018.

Support Local Journalism