Where development belongs | VailDaily.com

Where development belongs

Matt Zalaznick
Vail CO, Colorado

The Lionshead parking garage is not a pristine meadow or a fragile wetlands.

That may sound obvious, but some people who oppose the proposed renovation miss the point that there’s too much money to be made here at one of the world’s leading ski resorts. All the hotel rooms, condos, time-shares and art galleries have to go somewhere.

What better place to build than on top of an ugly gray parking garage? That’s certainly a better place than the Back Bowls or along Piney Ranch Road or somewhere else in the wilderness.

Instead of growing outward, Vail is smartly growing upward where it already has buildings. The same can be said for all the construction in town, including Vail Resorts’ Arabelle and Ever Vail projects.

The latter will replace a gas station and non-descript strip of stores with buildings one expects will be more aesthetically pleasing. And there’s just something cool about a gondola rising up over creek and disappearing into the mountain.

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This also goes for the Westin in Avon. Sure, the land is along the river and used to be a relatively quiet spot to fish or launch your kayak, but the land itself was a scrubby field used as an overflow parking lot and rodeo ring. If the market demands more hotel rooms, that’s an ideal spot.

The ridges of Avon and Beaver Creek already have enough buildings perched on them.

The Eagle River Preserve in Edwards is a missed opportunity for so-called “in-fill” development. It’s a big batch of open space you can barely see even if you live in Edwards. Making it into a park isn’t a bad idea but we’re surrounded by the giant park that is the national forest.

If Edwards’ economy ever demands more shops or its own City Market or Target, that would’ve been the best place. Nobody wants outlet malls or even boutiques creeping up the Lake Creek Valley or any higher up the hill than Singletree already creeps.

And Cordillera is already way too visible on the ridgelines to the west to put much more in the hills.

Wolcott ” the stretch along the interstate ” is mostly empty now but is another area where more buildings would belong. If the ranches there are ever sold, I hope Eagle County will pounce on at least a portion of the land for another Miller Ranch-style affordable housing development.

The so-called Eagle River Station is also a good spot to build ” sometimes a town has to grow over its borders to keep development from sprouting up further afield. The school district already has its eye on the area for another high school, so why not a nice looking shopping district similar to Riverwalk?

Eagle’s downtown may be historic and also be the root of sentimental feelings among Eagle residents, but Broadway doesn’t draw a lot of people downvalley like the bowling alley does. A spiffier Eagle River Station will lure more people to go west of Edwards.

On the other hand, I doubt the market is demanding a private ski resort in the forest above Minturn; that’s where we don’t need development no matter how many billionaires will buy a mansion next to members-only ski runs on top of Battle Mountain.

Like Colorado Wild head environmentalist Ryan Bidwell says, the best place to build is where buildings already are. The developer of the private ski resort insists you won’t be able to see the resort from the highway, but you’ll sure be able to see it from the surrounding wilderness ” if you’re climbing Mt. of the Holy Cross, for instance.

So much for the feeling of getting away from civilization.

Before panicking over development projects in town, we should be more worried about what the alternatives are. What’s an extra floor or two on top of Solaris in Vail Village? Who will even notice once its built?

But folks will notice a new subdivision among the rolling hills on the way to Steamboat Springs. We should build housing and shops in the valley to keep trophy homes and other developments out of the backcountry.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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