Vail Resorts opens the Front Door |

Vail Resorts opens the Front Door

Geraldine Haldner

It1s called the 3Front Door and Vail Resorts1 planners say it will make that crucial first impression necessary to be a competitive, world-class resort.For $75 million and a two-acre chunk of U.S. Forest Service land, the ski company promises to remake upper Vail Village much like Lionshead and create a smooth, seamless transition from Bridge Street to the Vista Bahn ski yard as customer-friendly and uncluttered as can be.The Front Door project<though challenged by zoning issues and a pending land trade with the Forest Service<will help put Vail1s best foot forward, ski company officers say.Centering on the parking lot in front of the Christiania parking lot, the ski yard, the Lodge at Vail and the streetscape in between, the project will be the topic of an hour-long presentation to the Vail Town Council tonight at 7:15 p.m.Though the Front Door project has been in the works for at least two years, its presentation will be a close second in the ski company1s sudden and massive push to make the town at the bottom of its famed mountain a favorite in the race for tourist dollars.Just six weeks ago, the ski company presented a massive redevelopment proposal for Lionshead, a nearly-half-billion-dollar project that would include a new luxury hotel, condominium and shopping complex, along with private homes and employee housing on five company-owned parcels in the western half of Vail1s commercial core, which many agree has been neglected for too long and has become an an eyesore not befitting of a world-class resort.The village, though still picturesque enough for postcard images, also is showing its age.The Front Door proposal, according to preliminary plans, would dig up much of the triangle between the Christiania parking lot, the ski yard and the Lodge at Vail so that unsightly surface parking could be buried underground.A community park would replace about 60 percent of what1s now a packed parking lot at the Christiania, leaving about 23 surface parking spaces and creating about 80 spaces underground. The underground parking would be sold to adjacent property owners, the plan proposes.At the proposal1s center piece, the ski yard, amenities designed to making getting on and off the mountain convenient, not cumbersome, would be burrowed into the hillside. The surface would become a landscaped venue for concerts in the summer and apres-ski mingling on heated pavement in the winter.South from the Lodge at Vail, going up the hill, the ski company proposes to bury most of Mountain Road from where it branches off from Vail Road to after it passes the Lodge. The plan would also relocate about 110 surface parking spaces as well as a loading and delivery facility, underground near the Lodge.Atop the underground parking garage, the plan would build a world-class spa to upgrade the lodge and adjacent to it in front of the Lodge Tower the company hopes to build 12 high-end homes for a 3residence club complete with a club house.To connect the improvements and create an overall sense of renewal, the ski company is pledging $1 million towards streetscape improvements in the upper village<ranging from new pavers to stairways to planters.While the ski company has made no formal applications to the town, Porter Wharton, Vail Resorts Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, says he expects to break ground on the ski yard and the Christiania parking lot by spring 2004. Total construction time for all the components is expected to take 24 months.Neighboring Lionshead, meanwhile, could also break ground within two years. A preliminary construction schedule calls for completion at Christmas 2007.The Vail Resorts presentation to the council will take place in the Vail Town Council Chambers at 75 S. Frontage Road in Vail.

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