‘Vision center’ operates with wink and a nod | VailDaily.com

‘Vision center’ operates with wink and a nod

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyVail's Preview Center allows guests to view the new design for Lionshead.

VAIL – People who come to the Vail’s New Dawn storefront in Lionshead can look at expensive real estate. If they want, they can also buy a poster.The preview center features intricate scale models of the Arrabelle at Vail Square project, allowing potential buyers to look in the windows of all of the 70 condos for sale. It also features interactive video displays that give a look at floorplans. Displays of standard and optional finishes hang from the walls.But the preview center occupies both a former real estate office and what used to be street-level retail space, something town codes don’t allow. So the center has a business license, a cash register, and, somewhere, posters for sale.The use of the property for something other than retail sales was approved last year by the Vail Town Council due to what Councilwoman Diana Donovan called a unique situation.

“Because of the Lionshead redevelopment, it was important to allow Vail Resorts to sell condos quickly to get it off the ground.”So the town and resort company forged what Donovan called a “very tight” agreement that allows Vail Resorts Development Company the temporary use of street-level retail space.Just after the center opened, town officials started hearing complaints that Vail Resorts wasn’t holding up its end of the deal to sell items from the storefront.Last week, Community Development Department Director Russell Forrest visited the site, then called his counterparts at Vail Resorts Development Company.”We told them they need to sell things and make a good faith effort to do that,” Forrest said.

That happened before Forrest took members of the town’s Design Review Board – the appointed board that rules whether property is being improved and used according to town codes – through the office last week. The changes apparently passed muster.”It does meet the letter of the law,” Forrest said, adding that other brokers can use the preview center, and that it can also be used for community meetings about the project.The town has also used the same wink-and-a-nod approach to using street-level retail space for its own public information center in Vail Village. A storefront in the Lodge Promenade building was home to a town-operated information center about the Vail Village Streetscape project. That center, too, had to sell stuff, in this case, the town’s manhole cover-related trinkets.The grumbling continues, though. One local broker has launched an on-line diary, or “blog” to complain about what he or she perceives as the preferential treatment Vail Resorts is getting. Another broker voiced similar complaints, but refused to be quoted for a story.

Both noted that a local real estate company’s request for street-level sales space at Crossroads was denied by the town while Vail Resorts’ request was approved.Donovan said she’s heard the complaints, but stood by the council’s decision.”We offered them the same deal as Vail Resorts, three years,” Donovan said. “Our approval cites the unique circumstances with this. It’s not permanent, but a temporary thing.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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