Will Edwards plan ripple in Vail Valley?
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – This could be an awful time to launch a big development proposal. Or it could be a really good time. A development company in Colorado’s Vail Valley is about to find out.The Atira Group, an Edwards-based development company, recently submitted a proposal to develop 105 acres of former gravel pit in Edwards most recently operated by B&B Excavating.The Eagle River Meadows proposal – which is still in its earliest stages of the county’s approval process – would put a mix of housing, retail and commercial development on the property. But that commercial space isn’t just for stores.Lance Badger, a senior partner with Atira, said the plan calls for the commercial space to focus on “health and wellness.” That could include doctors, of course, but it could also include chiropractors, acupuncture specialists, physical therapy offices and similar uses.People in that space would care for locals, of course, but Badger said he expects people will travel to Eagle River Meadows. “Destination medical is a growing industry,” Badger said. “There are a lot of good statistics to support it.” Don Cohen, director of the Economic Council of Eagle County, thinks Atira may be on to something with its plans.”This could be the first of many good efforts for Eagle County to invent a new kind of economic center based on health and wellness,” Cohen said. “This one of several really good ideas out there right now.”In fact, town of Vail officials in the past several months hired consultant James Chung to study the idea of a health and wellness center in town. That work, and it’s potential to conflict with Atira’s plans, has town officials casting wary looks to the west.”(Chung) has made a lot of the same suggestions I saw for this project,” Vail Town Council member Margaret Rogers said. “My concern is how this impacts the plans Vail has. Should we coordinate efforts, or should we go our own way?”Cohen said he thinks there’s plenty of opportunity for health and wellness operations in Vail, Edwards, and, perhaps, other communities in the valley.”There’s more than enough to around,” Cohen said. “I think we should encourage any venture built around health and wellness.”But could Eagle River Meadows end up as the new home of Vail Valley Medical Center? Responding to reports several months ago that the hospital was investigating a move out of Vail, town officials put a lot of money and effort into an economic impact study to bolster their case for keeping the medical center in Vail.Badger acknowledged that Atira could be a possible location for a relocated Vail hospital. And the current plan could potentially include a full-service hospital. If the medical center wants to talk to Atira about that, Badger said his company would be happy to listen.But, Cohen said, the prospects are slim of moving the hospital out of Vail any time soon, saying that could be upwards of a $400 million project.”We have no intent of duplicating a hospital in the valley,” Badger said. “It just doesn’t make any sense. We have to have sustainable business models.”The idea of sustainability could apply to another local industry, Cohen said.If Atira is able to break ground on the project in the next 12 to 18 months, it could create a lot of long-term construction jobs for a work force that’s seeing most of the big jobs currently underway start to wind down.”If they break ground in the next year or so, it would be the only real large-scale project in the valley for the next five years or so,” Cohen said. “And that means keeping local jobs in the valley.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.