Vail begins 'New Dawn' of age of development

Publication: Rocky Mountain News; Date: 05/21/2004

by David O. Williams

Parking garage part of massive renewal

VAIL - What is being dubbed as Vail's New Dawn - an ambitious billion-dollar redevelopment of the village core and Lionshead mall - began inauspiciously Thursday with a groundbreaking ceremony for an $11 million park and parking garage at the east end of town.

"This is a great day for Vail, and it's not just because we're building a parking garage in the east village," said Vail Resorts CEO Adam Aron. "It's because this is the first of several projects that are going to happen in rapid-fire succession to demonstrate to one and all that Vail's New Dawn has in fact risen."

The ski company's projects include $100 million to $150 million in improvements to Vail Village that are contingent on a pending land swap with the U.S. Forest Service, and $300 million to $400 million to revamp the aging Lionshead area.

Private lodges have committed to another $500 million in improvements to their properties, ranging from face-lifts to demolitions. Those projects are in various stages of the town's approval process, though a few have been completed. All the work is scheduled to occur over the next five years.

"We're ecstatic with everything," said Jim Lamont of the Vail Village Homeowners Association. "We worked to get the streetscape in place and the loading and delivery in place, and it revitalizes the bed base so we can transition from being a day-skier area back to being a world-class destination resort."

Loading and delivery for commercial vehicles has long been a contentious issue, one the redevelopment addresses by putting loading docks underground.

Also, the town broke ground last month on a $6.65 million publicly funded streetscape project that will replace 42-year- old water and sewer lines and install a snowmelt system in the village core, eliminating snowplowing.

Parking has been one of the biggest problems for one of the nation's most popular ski areas, and while the public won't see any benefit from the three-story underground garage that will be completed this summer, a number of well-heeled Vail residents, including the mayor, will.

Of the structure's 109 approved spaces, 101 are under contract for $100,000 apiece. There's a waiting list of 35 people vying for the other eight spaces. The garage will be covered by a new town park.

Mayor Rod Slifer was one of the lucky 101.

"One, I think it adds value to where we live, and two, if we ever move out of the core of Vail, I'd like to have a parking space," Slifer said. "Many of the buildings in the heart of Vail had no accommodations for parking, so it really answers a need for residents of the village core."

Aron said neither the stalled land swap with the Forest Service nor the economic vagaries of the ski industry will impact the timetable for Vail's New Dawn, as it's being marketed. Last year Vail Resorts recorded a net loss of $14 million, leading some in the community to question the ability of the ski company to deliver on its commitments.

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Vail makeover facts

  • $100 million to $150 million in improvements to Vail Village

  • $300 million to $400 million to revamp the aging Lionshead area

  • $500 million in improvements to lodges

  • $11 million park and parking garage at the east end of town (parking spaces are being sold for $100,000 apiece)