Vail’s civic area plan still will require more work before any facilities are built | VailDaily.com

Vail’s civic area plan still will require more work before any facilities are built

$40 million in known funding will only be a good start on ambitious ideas for 10-acre area

The Vail Civic Area Plan will require a lot of work on design, feasibility and funding before anything is built.
By the numbers
  • $40 million: Amount of “tax increment financing” revenue available.
  • $25 million: Estimated cost of replacing Vail’s town hall.
  • $42 million: Estimated cost of building a 55,000 square foot facility to replace Dobson Ice Arena.
  • $55 million: Estimated cost of building an events facility.
  • Source: Town of Vail

VAIL — Town officials and consultants have spent nearly two years working on the civic area plan. But that’s just the start of the work.

The Vail Town Council on Nov. 5 approved the plan, which sets out ideas for the future of roughly 10 acres of town-owned land that includes Town Hall, Dobson Ice Arena, the Vail Public Library and the Lionshead parking structure.

During the creation of the plan, that area’s future was described as possibly transformational for the town’s economic and civic life. The plan also envisions either renovating or replacing Town Hall and the ice arena, both of which are more than 40 years old. The area is also seen as a potential site for what town officials call a “multi-purpose events facility” — that would probably be built on a site between the parking structure and Dobson.

In the wake of the plan’s approval, Vail Community Development Department Director Matt Gennett said there’s “some urgency” in developing more specific plans for the area. That’s because the town has until 2030 to spend perhaps $40 million in funds generated by the Vail Reinvestment Authority.

That authority was created to spur redevelopment in Lionshead, using “tax increment financing.” That financing was used to fund public improvements in the area. Funds are generated from the increased value of private property in a defined area. Those increased tax revenues are used to pay for public improvements.

Only a start

But $40 million or so only represents a good head start on paying for improvements in the civic area. Just replacing Dobson might require all of that money, and then some.

Gennett said the council will use the plan to examine its options, both for what to build and what financing mechanism to use. Financing other improvements could use public improvement fees, a dedicated sales or lodging tax, public-private partnerships or other mechanisms.

With the framework of the plan in place, Gennett said: “There’s a lot more in-depth analysis to be done.”

Gennett said the civic area plan is different than a plan in the early 2000s to build a conference center. Town voters in 2002 passed a combination lodging tax/sales tax package, but years of research and debate determined that tax revenues weren’t adequate to build the facility.

In this case, Gennett said the current plan looks beyond one facility. And, he added, this plan also includes community-focused areas where people can gather. A town-owned parcel between the ice arena and Vail Health Hospital straddles Middle Creek, and could be used as green space for both residents and visitors.

Start with more ice?

Alison Wadey is a hockey mom, director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association and a member of the Vail Commission on Special Events. Wadey said she’s excited to see the next steps in the civic area plan. As you’d imagine, she’s particularly interested in improved ice facilities.

“Being on (the events committee), we see the power of these sports tournaments,” Wadey said. A youth gymnastics event this year drew 140 participants, along with their families. Most stayed in Vail.

“They really enjoy staying in Vail, and being able to walk to places,” Wadey said. “They’re a great economic driver.”

In addition to improvements in the town’s skating facilities, Wadey is also a fan of building an events center on the charter bus parking lot.

Beth Slifer is the chairwoman of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council. She’s long been an advocate of additional meeting space in town.

She said she hopes the Vail Town Council makes the civic area plan a top priority.

Noting the 2030 deadline for spending the current tax increment financing money, Slifer said the council needs to move quickly.

Between planning, design, engineering and financing, firm plans will “take quite a while” to finalize.

“I hope they’re ready to act,” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.


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