West Vail could go to one large grocery store under new plan

Public gets a look at drafts envisioning more housing and new options for commercial areas

An illustration from a presentation Wednesday in Vail shows the West Vail commercial area with 425 more residential units and 30,000 feet of additional commercial space.
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VAIL — A set of new master plan concepts for the West Vail commercial area received a viewing Wednesday from members of the public who were able to weigh in on ideas via multiple choice questions. About 70 people registered for the event.

The grocery store question – how many grocery stores should be in the area and what types – received an overwhelming response among the dozens of Zoom meeting attendees, of which 71% said they’d like to see one large, full-service grocery store and one specialty foods store. The area currently contains both a Safeway and a City Market, and the suggestion to leave two large grocery stores received 21% favorability.

The new West Vail master plan drafts are being developed by design firms Economic and Planning Systems, SE Group, Fehr Peers and Studio Seed.

Representatives from those firms presented three different concepts to attendees on Wednesday, ranging from basic to more elaborate ideas on how to rethink West Vail from City Market to Christy Sports.

The first scenario would add housing to areas behind Safeway and the building adjacent to it on the east, called the Vail Das Schoene building, as well as a few other areas. The plan adds 24 new housing units as well as 12,000 square feet of new commercial space, a transit center and a community green space.

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The second scenario envisions the redevelopment of the existing buildings, “separately, but in concert,” as described by Gabby Voeller of SE Group. The concept adds another 45,000 feet of commercial space and 300 more residential units.

The third scenario adds 425 more residential units and 30,000 feet of commercial space. All plans require a reconfiguration of parking.

The second of three draft plans presented to residents on Wednesday contained this illustration and envisioned the West Vail commercial area with 45,000 feet of additional business space and 300 more residential units.
Special to the Daily

Seeking Stan

All scenarios are also likely to require some sort of collaboration with neighboring property owners, especially the second and third scenarios which imagine a complete redevelopment of existing sites.

“With the commercial area, it’s a work in progress,” said town of Vail Community Development Director Matt Gennett. “We’re really working with the larger property owners to try to collaborate and really get that moving in the right direction just as soon as we can.”

Gennett said there’s five property owners, including the town of Vail, which would need to be involved in the discussions.

“Vail Das Schoene is a preexisting building, prior to annexation, that does have condominiumized spaces, so there’s an HOA there, and we did present to that group,” Gennett said.

Safeway has an ownership group that’s really a larger corporate entity,” Gennett said. “Same thing with West Vail Mall, with the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment group.”

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment also owns cable channels, radio stations, magazines and professional sports teams including the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Rams. Gennett said the town of Vail has not had any direct contact yet with the group.

“We are actively seeking contacts with the decision-makers within that organization,” Gennett said.

The town of Vail is the fifth property owner in addition to the West Vail Mall building, the Safeway building, and the Vail Das Schoene commercial and residential buildings. To the east, the town of Vail owns the City Market building and the area immediately surrounding it. The town has a long-term lease with the Kroger group on the grocery store portion of the property, Gennett said.

In implementing a plan like the second scenario, which would require immense collaboration, “The town-owned City Market property would be the catalyst site, and that would redevelop with the major grocer on the ground level, and housing above, as well as a parking structure that would serve the majority of the commercial center,” said Cheney Bostic with Studio Seed. “Once that is constructed, then that would open up opportunity for, perhaps, the Safeway to redevelop and make higher and better use of that land with some mixed use and adding more housing opportunities there.”

Nonconformities identified

As all plans for West Vail are in an effort to create more housing, housing goals were a big part of the discussion.

Some interesting discoveries were made in creating the draft master plans for West Vail.

Many zoning nonconformities were identified in areas surrounding the West Vail commercial district, including some residences being built out to accommodate 12 units when zoning on the property only allowed as much as a duplex.

If the owner of property in that situation wants to redevelop, they would have to follow the current zoning and turn the unit into a single family home or duplex. If this were to happen over time, the town housing stock could be decreased by more than 150 units, said Ellie Wachtel with SE Group.

“It would be a very slow progression, if you’d ever reach the numbers we’re talking about, just due to how people stay in their homes for a long time,” Wachtel said.

Rezoning options were discussed to avoid that outcome, and some of those rezoning options would allow lot owners to add more density if the owner were willing to deed restrict a portion of the units. A one-acre lot, for example, would be allowed 18 units, or “on a third of an acre lot, you could go up to six units, if half of the additional units are deed restricted,” Wachtel said.

A poll on housing goals asked respondents to share their primary goal among the following choices: increasing the number of deed-restricted units in town, supporting residents efforts to improve their properties, ensure new construction and updates reflect the mountain environment and neighborhood character, create a continuum of housing options to accommodate residents through all phases and stages of life, ensure 90% of West Vail housing units are within a five-minute walk of a transit stop, or, finally, maintain a managed level of short-term rental units.

Respondents chose the option to support residents’ efforts to improve their properties, receiving 30% of the vote.

“With the zoning code what it is, relating to what’s built, it’s really hard for people who own lots to redevelop and refurbish and provide visually appealing housing,” Wachtel said.

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