Will Vail really re-do its Town Hall?
What’s there now?
• Vail’s current town hall was built in 1970.
• The current building is 11,300 square feet, not counting the police department.
• The community development department building has about 6,300 square feet of space.
• There are no fire sprinklers.
VAIL — After more than five years of ideas and false starts, Vail officials appear ready to take another shot at replacing the town’s municipal building.
The current Town Hall dates to 1970, and the cinder-block structure was never meant to get as old as it has — Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet says the building was only built to last seven or eight years. Despite upgrades over the years, the building still has 45-year-old wiring and plumbing, and no one at the time could have foreseen current needs.
Despite all those flaws, replacing any building in a resort town is an expensive proposition, subordinate of myriad other priorities. Still, the Vail Town Council has for the past several years taken a handful of serious attempts to replace the old structure.
The current idea still needs a lot of work to determine its final form and cost. But it would add about 12,000 square feet of space, expanding the building both out and up from its current site. The Vail Police Department’s offices would be left alone, since that space was essentially rebuilt in the 1990s.
The current idea for the expansion — drawn up by Will Hentschel, of Denver-based 359 Design — uses information generated during previous attempts to replace Town Hall.
That first effort began in 2010, when a partnership of Vail Valley Medical Center, the Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute came to the town with an offer to buy about half of the municipal campus site. That land would be used for a new medical office building.
The town and medical partners signed a contract to sell in the land in April of 2012, and the $5 million purchase price would be used to pay part of the cost for a new town hall estimated to cost roughly $20 million. Town officials planned to pay the rest of the cost out of town reserves. Planning for both projects continued through that year, but the Steadman Clinic pulled out of the deal in November of 2012, essentially killing the project.
With space assessments and various other studies complete and paid for, town officials have since looked for other ways to update the municipal building.
Vail Valley Medical Center in 2014 proposed another plan, this one for parking. That began another round of in-house brainstorming to try to find a way to upgrade the town’s office space. That proposal was withdrawn not long after it was proposed.
The latest idea for a renovated town hall uses some of that work, as well as new thinking. The idea endorsed by council members this week would add another level to the building. That would create a three-story structure on the south side of the building and a two-story structure on the north side. The current idea would move the town’s Community Development Department out of the building on the west side of the Town Hall’s parking lot, with future use of that space still to be determined.
Town Manager Stan Zemler told the council that the existing building is structurally sound but has a number of problems, from the heating and ventilation system to the roof.
“We have an opportunity to do an extensive remodel without a parking structure,” Zemler said. “That should get us through a 15- to 20-year period.”
Moffet cautioned his colleagues that any renovation project may be standing longer than expected.
“One of the hardest things to commit to is rebuilding town buildings,” Moffet said. “I’m looking at this to last a really long time.”
That’s why council members generally favored the most ambitious of the ideas Hentschel presented.
If that happens, future parking needs could add to the cost.
But all that will be figured out in future discussions. But, with no partners involved, this idea may become reality in the not-too-distant future.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.
Up until now, the county has been a referral agency relegated to commenting on the plan but that could change if developers plan water service extension to the site