Vail’s transformation gets rolling | VailDaily.com

Vail’s transformation gets rolling

Cliff Thompson
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyLocals and guests shop around Vail Village Tuesday .
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VAIL – What a difference a renaissance can make.Over the last 10 years Vail’s budget has been squeezed by increasing competition, an aging town and declining sales tax revenue. That forced the town to pare its staff and to cut expenses. It was a trend that put Vail’s No. 1 ski town and ski mountain ranking in jeopardy.But a long-planned $1 billion revitalization of Vail Village and Lionshead began early in 2004. Dubbed Vail’s “renaissance,” the transformation is scheduled to be largely complete by 2011. Older building will be replaced by larger, newer buildings.That revitalization is having the same effect on the town’s budget that steroids have on an Olympic sprinter – they’re pumping things up. At the same time, however, the renaissance will be pumping up the town’s expenses, and removing some of the revenue, too. Ultimately it will put the town back where it needs to be, Town Manager Stan Zemler said.”It’s not as dramatic as one might think,” he said. “We’re gaining back ground we used to have, and we’re coming out of some weak years. This will help us keep pace.”

By the numbersThe town’s budget will increase only 1.5 percent to $42.41 million for 2005, but by 2007 the town’s budget should see a huge bump of $9 million from a combination of one-time real estate transfer taxes and a $1 million increase in sales taxes. By 2009, the town’s annual budget is expected to reach approximately $46 million a year, said Judy Camp, Vail’s finance director.Real estate transfer taxes are paid when property is sold. In Vail they are earmarked for acquisition of open space and recreation.The town will be in a sprint to keep pace with the construction of five major buildings that will start this year and with constructions of additional buildings that will continue through 2010. For the first time in five years, the town will actually be hiring staff. Nine people will be hired in 2005 to help manage the redevelopment and other demands for service.

In 2004 the town earned $1.5 million in building permit and other fees charged by the town to three new projects, but that’s just the start. In the 2005 budget those fees will grow to $1.7 million or nearly 7.5 percent of the town’s annual revenue.But that infusion of cash will be offset by an estimated $379,000 decline in sales tax collections while old buildings are razed. That destruction and new construction may keep visitors away.In 2006 that decline will hit $475,000, Camp said, but the following year, when new properties are open, revenue will increase $592,000 and by 2009, will hit $2 million, and should stay at that level.That steady revenue will boost the town’s budget.Spending it, too

Over the next five years Vail will be spending nearly $38 million in improvements for the town over the next five years, including more than $20 million in street improvements in Vail and Lionshead. Vail Resorts will be developing $500 million in real estate in Vail and Lionshead during the renaissance and will spend nearly $19 million on parking, streets, public art and other improvements, Camp said.When the revitalization is largely completed in 2010 the town will see an additional 561 new lodging units – a 15 percent increase. Nearly 25 percent of the town’s existing accommodation units will be new after the renaissance, said Russell Forrest, Vail’s community development director.”That’s phenomenal for a community this size,” he said.If the proposed conference center is added to the mix, it could drive a more year-round economy by bringing in convention business in the off-season, Forrest said.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado