Who owes employee housing in Vail? | VailDaily.com

Who owes employee housing in Vail?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” New developments have been popping up all over Vail, Colorado, and that also means that new employee housing should soon follow.

That includes plans for 124 employee beds at Lionshead’s North Day Lot, as well as various homes around town that will soon be turned into deed-restricted, employee housing.

The town of Vail requires developers provide a certain number of employee beds for the jobs their projects create. Developers have the choice to build the housing, buy homes to turn into employee housing or pay a fee.

For now, housing in connection with various finished or soon-to-be-finished developments is trickling in. Here’s an update of where Vail’s employee housing stands.

Vail Resorts is moving forward with plans to build 124 employee beds at the North Day Lot in connection with the Lionshead Arrabelle project.

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Tentative plans for the employee housing project show a 200,000- to 250,000-square-foot building similar in layout to Timber Ridge, Vail’s largest employee housing complex. The homes will be dormitory-style, with four bedroom units and common areas, said Tom Miller, director of development with Vail Resorts Development Co.

As required by the town, the employee housing will also have 50 parking spaces and a skier drop-off area that will provide access into Lionshead Village.

The town’s design review board looked at the draft of the building earlier this month. The board approved of the plans, but asked that developers give the building more “architectural embellishments,” Miller said.

The plans will come before the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission on Jan. 26. for approval, then the town council will see the plans in February.

“It’s going well,” Miller said of the approval process. “Once the North Day Lot is under construction, then we’ll have met our housing requirements.”

Other major projects that will bring more employee housing include the Four Seasons Resort and Solaris, both at Vail Village.

The Four Seasons will have 121 hotel rooms as well as fractional residences and condos and is currently under construction.

The Four Seasons owes 68 employee beds, which will be built on the site of the project, said Vail Chief of Planning Warren Campbell.

Solaris, which will have 77 condos, a movie theater, bowling alley, stores, restaurants and an ice rink, still owes 22 employee beds for the project, said Vail Housing Director Nina Timm.

The project is expected to be completed in April 2010, and the housing requirements must be met before the building can be occupied, Timm said.

The Vail Plaza Hotel, which was finished in December 2007, also provided 38 employee beds on site.

Instead of building their employee housing within the development, some smaller projects are opting to buy homes around Vail to turn into deed-restricted housing.

Vail Resorts bought several homes in East Vail for both it’s Front Door and Ritz Carlton projects.

The Front Door, a development that includes 13 townhomes and the Vail Mountain Club at the base of the Vista Bahn, required nine employee beds. The resort provided at 11 beds in East Vail homes, Miller said.

The Ritz Carlton requires 11 beds before the project is open, according to the town. Vail Resorts has purchased the homes but has not made them deed-restricted yet.

In the past, the housing component of a development has lagged behind the completion of the project, Timm said.

“That was one of the biggest reasons we made the change a year ago that required (new projects) to provide some of the housing on-site,” Timm said. “It ensures that at least some of the housing is built with the project.

The new housing rules require at least 50 percent of the employee housing to be on the site of the development, or the builder has to pay a hefty fee. Previously, developers could satisfy the requirements elsewhere in town.

While most of the major projects going up in Vail were approved before the new rules went into effect, the rules apply to all future developments.

The new rules will affect Ever Vail, Vail Resort’s proposed $1.5-billion ski village in West Lionshead. However, Miller said the rules won’t be a problem for the large project, which is just entering the approval process.

In fact, the resort plans to put as much as 70 percent of its employee housing within Ever Vail, he said.

However, developments that are a single building, or that are simply smaller in scale, might struggle to put employee beds on site.

It would be more difficult to fit the employee units into the building’s design, and the resulting units would be more expensive than the typical employee housing, he said.

“I’d expect most smaller projects to do the fee-in-leiu,” Miller said. “And that seems to be what many are doing.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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