Vail school renovation may include parking
By the numbers
4.5 acres: Size of the property that Red Sandstone Elementary School occupies.
45: Current parking spaces at the school.
125: Approximate parking spaces in a possible structure at the school.
$6.8 million: Estimated cost of a three-level parking structure at the site.
VAIL — Red Sandstone Elementary School is short of parking, which isn’t unusual in Vail. An ambitious plan to remodel the school may change that, and benefit skiers, too.
In the months since county voters last year approved a bond issue for school improvements, Eagle County Schools officials are working on renovations and upgrades to every school in the district.
Red Sandstone’s part of that $154 million project carries an estimated price of about $11 million, and includes a complete re-do of the classroom space, the addition of a cafeteria and community room and moving the school’s office next to the front door. The plan also includes upgrading parking at the school.
Planner Tom Braun told Vail Town Council members Tuesday afternoon that early designs to upgrade the parking at the school added as many spaces as needed at the facility — adding roughly 20 spaces to the current 45.
But, Braun said, neither of the options for that upgrade make the best use of the space available.
That makes a bolder plan possible.
Four-level parking structure
That bolder plan is a three- or four-level parking structure at the school. That structure could add somewhere between 120 and 160 new parking spaces. The cost of the structure would be shared by the district, the town and, perhaps, Vail Resorts. The school is already on a bus route, and, with the completion later this year of an underpass linking the town’s north and south frontage roads beneath Interstate 70, the school will be a short bus ride from Lionshead Village.
From the district’s perspective, creating a parking structure could help contain costs on the Red Sandstone renovations. The current plan calls for work to take place over two summers, in 2018 and 2019.
Jeff Chamberlin, who’s managing the bond issue projects for the district, told council members that starting work on a parking structure in February of 2018 could have the facility done by August of that year. If that happens, then work on the school could start in June of 2018 and finish in November. Classes could be held in mobile classrooms parked atop the structure for the first few months of the school year.
Council members seemed interested in the plan.
“This project is good for all of this,” council member Dick Cleveland said, suggesting that the project expand from three levels to four.
Council member Greg Moffet also suggested that the structure could be built in a way that the school could be expanded on top of it. That would make it possible to create a school aimed at more grade levels in the future.
Who pays the bill?
While everyone agrees that more parking in Vail is a good thing, the biggest hurdle to clear is how to pay for a structure.
All construction is expensive, and parking structures are no exception. Chamberlain said the initial estimate for the structure is $6.8 million, and that’s for construction only. On a three-level, 125-space structure, that’s $54,400 for every parking space. Chamberlain said a four-level structure would bring down the per-space cost.
Landscaping, restrooms and bus stop improvements would add more to the estimate, of course.
That brings up the question of who’s paying for the structure.
The cost estimate for the school renovation alone has already risen from about $8 million to about $11 million. Finishing the renovation work in one year will save some money, Chamberlain said, perhaps freeing up some cash to put into the structure.
Vail Resorts years ago pledged $4.3 million to expand Vail’s parking inventory, but that money comes with restrictions, and the company has to approve of the project before writing any checks.
Cleveland suggested that the school’s proximity to Lionshead Village could make that area eligible for funds from a special taxing district first used to pay for public improvements in the resort village.
Whatever the sources of funding, both district and town officials agreed to start working in earnest on the parking structure plans.