West Vail Mall’s potential sale may impact commercial, residential planning for the area | VailDaily.com

West Vail Mall’s potential sale may impact commercial, residential planning for the area

The West Vail Mall building Thursday, Nov. 16, in West Vail. The building comprises from Christy Sports to West Vail Liquor Mart.

VAIL — There's only so much room to build, or rebuild, in Vail, especially when it comes to commercial areas. It may be about time for West Vail to have its turn.

The West Vail Mall, anchored on the east end by West Vail Liquor Mart and on the west by Christy Sports, was found for sale on the LoopNet website for an undisclosed price. But that price is certainly higher than the Eagle County Assessor's Office's most recent value assessment of the 35,000-square-foot building: $7.77 million.

Erich Schmidt, of NAI Mountain Commercial, is the listing broker for the property.

Schmidt said his client, West Vail Mall Properties, doesn't want to discuss the listing beyond a basic statement.

"They're exploring their options, and that includes a possible sale," Schmidt said.

No matter who owns the building, options will start being discussed more extensively in the near future.

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During the recent Vail Town Council election campaign, several candidates said that creating a West Vail master plan — a guideline for future development — should be high on the board's to-do list.

While master plans don't have the force of law, they do contain recommendations about both community needs and private-sector ideas.

What should be there?

Master plans guided redevelopment projects in both Vail Village and Lionshead Village during Vail's "billion-dollar renewal," a series of projects that brought both new construction and extensive renovation to those areas.

Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther guided both the plans and resulting projects through the town's approval processes.

Ruther said master plans sometimes are spurred by a motivated land owner. That was the case when Vail Resorts wanted to redevelop the property on which the Arrabelle now stands.

If the West Vail Mall sells to a person or group with redevelopment in mind — or if the current owners decide to redevelop the property — Ruther said the town would try to help. But the prospect of redevelopment is far from certain.

"We've talked to some people, and there's redevelopment potential there," Ruther said. "But (the building) could also stand as-is."

While there are no clear prospects for a sale, Schmidt said the current commercial property market is strong in the valley.

Schmidt said this year has been solid for activity in the commercial real estate market, although the third quarter dipped a bit from the previous year.

That roughly mirrors the valley's residential real estate market, which saw a dip in September of this year from the previous year's figures.

Like the residential market, there's also a relative shortage of property for sale, particularly in the resort village areas.

"Interest is always strong for pure lack of land (in the resort villages) — places don't trade that often," Schmidt said.

Strong interest valleywide

The interest in commercial property is strong throughout the Vail Valley, Schmidt said.

There's been an increase in demand for commercial property in the past 18 to 24 months, Schmidt said.

"Vacancy is low," Schmidt said. There's demand for light industrial property around Eagle and Gypsum. In the Edwards area, a deal is near for the last space available in the Edwards Corner area.

While the current strength of the commercial market somewhat mirrors the valley's residential market, it's far from an exact comparison.

For one thing, the valley's commercial market was just less than $250 million in sales for improved property, development property and vacant space from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31. The valley's residential market in August alone was $240.4 million in sales volume.

Then there's the fact that commercial property can sometimes have different uses. A storefront or office in Vail is almost certain to remain in that use, but Schmidt said a vacant parcel just up Metcalf Road in Avon may see some sort of change.

"People are still looking for the highest, best use of that property," Schmidt said, adding that ideas range from pure commercial to housing to some sort of combination.

Planning for the West Vail Mall may also take a look at the prospect of a combination of commercial and residential space.

"But we still need commercial space for the community," Ruther said. "We still need a bank, a grocery store, a hardware store and similar uses."

What form that space takes in the next several years will depend on a property owner's vision.

By the numbers

• $7.77 million: Most recent Eagle County assessment value of the West Vail Mall.

• 75: Transactions of commercial improved property in Eagle County, Jan. 1 to Aug. 31.

• $12.9 million: Value of commercial improved property sales in Eagle County in August.

• $218.1 million: Total sales of commercial improved property in Eagle County, Jan. 1 to Aug. 31.

Sources: Eagle County Assessor’s Office, Land Title Guarantee Co.