Vail Daily editorial: Buy the Skier Building, but…
Avon’s town government was rebuffed by town voters in 2015 when it tried to buy the never-occupied husk of a structure known as the Skier Building. But the idea of a new town hall never really went away.
Another plan to purchase the Skier Building — now called the Mountain Vista building — is now moving through the town’s process. Like many second attempts, this one seems much better than the first, mainly because of the cost to taxpayers.
The first Skier Building deal put the purchase price at $3.2 million. Enough town residents opposed the purchase and forced a special election on the financing method. That election fell firmly in favor of opponents.
The latest deal would put the building into town hands for a much better price — $1.5 million. That price would be paid from existing town reserves.
Mark Kogan, one of the leading critics of the 2014 deal, has been involved in further research about the town’s office needs, as well as negotiations with the building’s owners. He believes the current price is right. Kogan’s background in commercial real estate at the highest levels makes him a pretty solid authority.
With a contract nearly complete to buy the building, the town now needs to be careful with the taxpayer money used to finish the structure. The Skier Building was built to comply with town a town agreement to build adjacent condos and lodging, but the structure is literally a shell. It’s going to take a lot of thought — and cash — to create a modern, efficient municipal office building.
Costs already seem to be increasing.
In 2014, town officials estimated it would take about $2.5 million to finish the interior space. That figure is now at $3 million.
Part of that is tied to the cost of construction, which has risen at more than 10 percent per year for the past three years. That puts the town in something of a bind to get the work done before costs climb even higher. It also creates yet another argument against renovating the existing town hall. If renovation of that early-1980s structure was wasteful 18 months ago, it’s an even bigger waste of resources today.
But town officials also need to take care to get the most for their money. Now isn’t the time to start thinking about wants. This is about needs, for now and the foreseeable future.
If town officials can keep their wish lists short and focused, Avon taxpayers may yet end up with a new town hall for less than the cost of building from the ground up.