What does the future hold for the West End? | VailDaily.com

What does the future hold for the West End?

NWS West End KA 1-31-12

EDWARDS – The West End property in Edwards has a new owner, but the land’s future use is still an question.

WHI Real Estate Partners, a private equity company based in Chicago, bought the property in December from the lender, which had repossessed the land.

The property in Edwards, just west of the Kemp and Co. lot along U.S. Highway 6 just west of the stoplight, was once envisioned as the community’s latest retail and residential center.

A county-approved plan for the property included 85,000 square feet of retail and office space – including restaurants and a brewery – as well as 185 condos, 72 of which were to be reserved for housing with appreciation caps so the units would remain relatively affordable. A presale of those units had some local residents camping out to put down deposits.

But after the project was approved in 2007, the original developers couldn’t secure construction financing, and the project languished. A planned construction start in April of 2008 came and went.

In early 2009 came word that the developer, Denver-based Midtown Group, was looking at alternatives to financing the project all in one piece and had refunded the deposits of prospective condo buyers. The property eventually went into foreclosure.

Jim Orth, a managing principal in WHI’s real estate division, said his company has been interested in the Vail Valley for some time, viewing it as a good place to live and do business.

“We believe it’s a very good long-term investment,” Orth said.

Orth said the company has just started looking at potential uses for the property but hasn’t come to any conclusions yet.

“The first step is to assess what the property wants to be,” Orth said, adding that that process will include both market analysis and community input. Orth wouldn’t say whether or not the original West End plan was still being evaluated.

But Bob Naracci, head of the Eagle County Planning Department, said a new owner of the West End property can’t just build what was originally approved. Naracci said a contract to access the West End property through the adjacent Eagle River Preserve open space would need to be renewed.

Because the original West End plan put a lot of construction on the property, its county approval carried a fairly long list of items that the developers would have to pay for just outside the site. Those items included traffic and bus-stop improvements and also required the developers to pay as much as $250,000 for landscaping at the Eagle River Preserve near the project.

To change those requirements, the new owners will have to either amend the existing approval, called a “Planned Unit Development,” or will force them to file an entirely new plan.

But the new land owners don’t seem to be in any hurry to plan a project.

“It’s just too early to tell what may happen,” Orth said.

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