Vail Resorts completes Lionshead worker housing
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Vail Resorts announced Wednesday that its 124-bed employee housing project in Lionshead is finished, a project that has been years in the making and has suffered many delays.
The project, called First Chair, is the first building of its kind – strictly an employee housing development – on the south side of Interstate 70. Middle Creek and Timber Ridge, the town’s other two employee housing developments, are on the north side of the interstate.
“I’m excited that it’s finally finished,” Mayor Dick Cleveland said Wednesday. “It’s a good project both for the town and for Vail Resorts.”
The First Chair project fulfills the employee housing requirement for the Arrabelle at Vail Square project, which Vail Resorts opened in January 2008. The Vail Town Council and the ski company have squabbled over the housing requirement over the years because of the delay in getting it built, although Vail Town Council members have said the delay wasn’t entirely the ski company’s fault.
The town also didn’t implement its new policy requiring employee housing requirements to be met before “certificates of occupancy” are issued until after the Arrabelle project was built.
The town had tried to get Vail Resorts to partner with it on a Timber Ridge redevelopment project, which would have fulfilled the Arrabelle requirement, but negotiations never panned out and Vail Resorts went back to the drawing board on the First Chair project.
There was also a plan to build a transit center on the First Chair site, known as the North Day lot, per the town’s Lionshead Master Plan. The town ended up choosing to build that project on the north end of the Lionshead parking structure.
“There were a lot of delays back and forth,” Vail Resorts Development Co. spokeswoman Kristin Kenney Williams said.
Two more issues over the development also came up last year – a Vail Resorts letter of credit to the town and the company’s obligation to build nine skier drop-off spaces at the First Chair development.
Vail Resorts wanted to reduce its $22 million letter of credit to $12.5 million in February 2010 because Vail Resorts wanted to keep the amount in the letter of credit in line with the actual cost of construction. The $22 million amount had been reached because the company hadn’t put forth a detailed project in which to base construction costs, so it used the formula for the town’s pay-in-lieu policy, which is based on real estate square footage prices.
At the time Vail Resorts asked for the letter of credit reduction, Vail council members Kevin Foley, Margaret Rogers and Mayor Dick Cleveland voted against it.
“The community wanted this housing a long time ago,” Foley said.
Rogers said she felt more comfortable having the $22 million in the bank should Vail Resorts continue to drag its feet on building the Arrabelle employee housing requirement, but the council ultimately approved the letter of credit reduction.
Then last September, the town went to Vail Resorts with a proposal to remove the skier drop-off parking requirement on the First Chair project in exchange for $725,000 because the town had identified skier drop-off parking at the Lionshead parking structure as a more desirable location.
Vail Resorts said because the town was lifting the skier drop-off requirement for the pay-in-lieu fee, it would build about 29 parking spaces at First Chair.
Vail Resorts representatives and Vail council members squabbled at that meeting, too, proving the ongoing negotiations over the First Chair project had put strains on the relationship.
The 29 spaces did end up getting built, and Williams said that per a formal agreement with the town, those spaces will be “allocated to daily or similar short-term use.”
Williams said this is a time for Vail Resorts to celebrate with the town of Vail a project that shows how the two entities can partner together.
“While it was a tough road to get there, I also think transferring the skier drop-off obligation and putting in more parking sports and handing over a substantially sized check to the town, this is another good example of how we partner,” Williams said.
Cleveland said he hasn’t seen signs of a strained relationship between the town and Vail Resorts in “quite a while.”
“I think everything already has improved,” Cleveland said.
Williams said First Chair’s completion means Vail Resorts no longer has any outstanding obligations or requirements left to the town. The timing is “terrific” for discussing the company’s $1 billion proposed Ever Vail project, which is making its way through the town process now, she said.
Vail Resorts plans to finish furnishing the First Chair units this summer and employees are expected to start moving in by the end of the summer.
Project broke ground almost exactly a year ago.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.