$1 million is ‘affordable’ in Vail | AspenTimes.com

$1 million is ‘affordable’ in Vail

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
The 'Market Square' project in Vail could be completed by 2010, according to the developer. (Contributed image)

VAIL, Colo. ” A developer plans to build worker housing, stores, restaurants and offices on a strip of town-owned land near Vail Village’s Covered Bridge.

The plans were disclosed at a Town Council meeting Tuesday, but the developer had been meeting privately with Town Council members to discuss the project, dubbed “Market Square.”

The Maryland-based developer needs Vail’s approval to build the $45 million project on the town land between the Vail Transportation Center and East Meadow Drive.

The proposal calls for up to 45 deed-restricted condos stretching from Bridge Street east. The offices, stores and restaurants would be from Bridge Street west. The 1-acre parcel would be leased to the developer at $1 a year.

Some councilors pushed to move forward, saying the plan addresses some of Vail’s biggest problems ” a lack of affordable housing and office space.

“Frankly, I don’t think we’ll get a better deal than this, and I don’t think we should slow it down,” said Councilwoman Margaret Rogers.

Councilman Mark Gordon said the town should “proceed with incredible haste.”

The project could be done by 2010, the developer said.

“It’s this type of public-private partnership that’s needed to solve the problem,” said Steve Virostek, a partner in Triumph Development.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom condos would range in price from $500,000 to $1 million, Virostek said, adding that free-market units would perhaps sell for five times as much. Professionals, such as doctors, are now priced out of Vail, he said.

“Affordable is a relative term,” he said.

With development creating more and more jobs in town and rising real-estate prices pushing workers farther away, Vail has tried to create more affordable housing. Some businesses are increasingly complaining that they can’t find enough workers to operate.

Office space has also become more scarce in town as developers opt to build profitable condo complexes.

But, on Tuesday, some council members called for a slower approach, saying the process should be competitive.

“I can’t see why we wouldn’t put it out to the development community to get the absolute best use of the land,” said Councilman Kevin Foley.

Councilman Farrow Hitt said the process needs to be transparent.

“We need to have public feedback,” he said.

Several business people who had already been showed the project came to the meeting.

“I was astounded at its simplicity, beauty and vision,” said Rick Colomitz, general manager of Kelly Liken Restaurant. “What the town receives for this project is immense.”

“I looked at it and I thought it was a phenomenal idea,” said Axel Wilhelmsen of Axel’s.

Still, observers said it seemed a deal was being put together behind closed doors. Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, said the town needed to slow down and have a discussion about if and how town-owned land should be developed.

“We’re dealing with public land here,” Lamont said.

Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, said it was “shocking” that some council members didn’t seem to want to take competitive bids from developers for the project.

“Something happened in the back rooms that caused several council members to somehow think that this was a slam dunk and the public didn’t need to be involved in the discussion of it,” Ferry said.

On Tuesday, the council ultimately decided to amend its Vail Village “master plan” to consider what, if anything, should be built on the land.

The next step could be to open up the process for a “request for proposals” from developers.


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