Vail officials looking to tackle town hall, again
VAIL — After a handful of false starts, town officials are looking again at options to replace the aging town hall building and, perhaps, include more parking on the site.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday got its first official look at three options to rebuild the 1970s-vintage structure. All would include a 160-space parking garage. Council members haven’t talked about ways to fund any project, but the town does have millions in the bank and a very high credit rating if it decided to issue revenue bonds.
The options presented Tuesday offer much less parking than the 2012 plan with the medical partners, but the new structure wouldn’t be built underground because digging gets very expensive very quickly.
Aside from the parking, architect Will Hentschel, who worked on the 2012 plan, suggested three options for new municipal offices:
• Completely renovating the town hall on its existing space. The police station, which was renovated in the 1990s, would remain in its current location.
• Building a new town hall on the existing site,
• Building a municipal office building atop the parking structure. That would create a public plaza between the structure and the police station.
In all three options, the community development offices on the west side of the property would be demolished.
Hentschel and town staff are currently working with the 2012 estimate of about $15 million for the town hall, a figure everyone agrees is too low two years later.
Town Manager Stan Zemler told the council that his staff worked on these options with an idea toward a space-efficient, cost-effective way to replace the town hall.
But council member Margaret Rogers suggested a fourth option for the project: putting other uses on the property. Rogers suggested perhaps a small performing arts center, offices or something else.
“The thing we have the least of is buildable space,” Rogers said.
Other council members echoed Rogers’ remarks.
“Our dilemma is that for just municipal offices and parking, this land is too valuable … This (idea) doesn’t use the land effectively.”
While the land under the town offices is valuable — it’s across the street from a Four Seasons hotel — it does sit on a triangle between Interstate 70 and South Frontage Road.
“It’s not great space,” council member Dave Chapin said. “I don’t think we need to move (town hall) for a higher and better use; I don’t think there is one.”
Resident Stephen Connolly disagreed somewhat.
“A blank slate would be a great do-over,” Connolly said. “Is this the best place for a town hall. Could we build at the (town) bus barn?”
Connolly wondered what a private developer might be able to do with the space and wondered whether the land might be better used for parking and office space.
While talking about other possible uses, council member Ludwig Kurz asked his colleagues to keep in mind the amount of traffic any new uses might generate. That said, Kurz said office space might be a good additional use for the property.
Council members will take another look at their options in coming weeks.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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