Branch of Denver Art Museum in Vail? |

Branch of Denver Art Museum in Vail?

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” The developer who wants to rebuild the Lionshead parking structure in Vail says he’s in talks to bring a branch of the Denver Art Museum to the proposed complex.

“I’ve been in direct communication with Lewis Sharp, the director of the Denver Art Museum, and we are collectively committed to coming up with a great program in Vail,” said Mark Masinter, a leader of the Open Hospitality Group/Hillwood Capital development group.

The developer has a $600 million plan to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure into a W hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, condos, timeshares, public parking, a bus station, a conference center, stores and restaurants.

A museum spokeswoman said officials talked to Masinter “briefly about a possible conversation in the future.”

“The Denver Art Museum leadership would be excited to explore the possibility of a relationship and have a conversation about a possible collaboration in Vail,” said spokeswoman Kristy Bassuener. “To date, the museum has not had that conversation with Mr. Masinter, and there no plans, general or concrete, about a collaboration in Vail.”

Masinter presented the idea to bring a branch of the art museum to town at a meeting Tuesday with the Vail Town Council.

Former councilman Kent Logan, a prominent art collector who, along with his wife, has pledged $60 million to the Denver museum, helped facilitate the conversation.

“Mark wanted to have a cultural component to his project, specifically in the visual area,” Logan said. “The Denver Art Museum seems like the natural partner, if they’re interested.”

The Vail Valley has rich offerings of performing arts at places like the Vilar Center and the Ford Amphitheater, but local visual-art offerings don’t measure up, Logan said.

And large museums like the Denver Art Museum have most of their work in storage at any given time, he said.

Other local arts advocates welcomed the prospect of the museum in Vail.

“I think it’s a very intriguing idea,” said Doe Browning, a member of Vail’s Art in Public Places board. “We don’t have a museum here.”

Masinter presented other, small changes to the plan. The W and St. Regis hotels swapped locations, more skier drop-off spaces were created, more retail space was added and the conference center moved to a different spot.

The developer will return in the next couple of months to present a final plan to the council. If it approves the plan, the project will go to the town’s planning commission. It could return to the council again.

The 6.3-acre Lionshead parking structure was built in 1981 and has 1,150 spaces. It is owned by the town, but Vail Resorts holds a covenant that gives it the final say over whether the project would happen.

“I’m very concerned about the deed restriction being lifted,” said Councilman Farrow Hitt.

“They’ve given me no reason to believe that they would be in opposition to this,” Masinter said.

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said Wednesday the company is considering the project as the town does, and would give final approval at the same time the town does.

“I think what we’ve said consistently is we will move in lockstep with the town of Vail through the approval process,” Katz said.

Katz said he sees value in the project’s potential improvements to the town but is concerned about having enough parking during and after construction. That includes making sure the project won’t stall after it starts, he said.

“Anytime you’re considering tearing down a parking lot that’s the lifeblood of a resort, we’re very concerned about it,” Katz said.

Also, Vail Resorts’ planned 800-space Ever Vail parking garage must be completed before the existing Lionshead parking structure can be torn down. Katz said he’s not sure when that project will be done.


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