Vail stalls on welcome center |

Vail stalls on welcome center

VAIL – The new welcome center at the Lionshead parking structure faces yet another delay as Vail Town Council members mull ideas about how the building would function.

The Town Council, which has been reviewing the project since last year, was to decide Tuesday night whether to pursue a two- or three-story building, or a hybrid of the two. While at least three members are leaning toward the hybrid, council decided to seek more information before making a decision.

The building, in the current Subway and Vail Recreation District building, would serve as a waiting area for bus riders and feature an information center. The Vail Recreation District would also operate children’s programs from the second floor, and the hybrid option would include a third-floor space available for ceremonies, meetings or other community uses.

Vail Economic Development Manager Kelli McDonald told council members that various cultural groups have expressed interest in renting the space, but council members want to get a more specific plan together about how much rentals would cost and which users would truly end up renting it.

“How much rent are they willing to pay?” asked Councilman Andy Daly.

Earlier in the meeting, Vail Homeowners’ Association executive director Jim Lamont told the Town Council that the economic situation means standards have changed in terms of public projects.

He said there needs to be a justification for the expenditure, specifically a valuable return on investment.

Whether that value would come from actual revenues or from a public benefit is yet to be determined.

The Town Council chose to have a work session meeting, either Sept. 7 or Sept. 21, to meet with the Vail Recreation District to see what its plans are for the future. There have been initial talks that the Vail Recreation District would move into Vail Resorts’ Ever Vail project, which is years away from construction.

“They may not want to move to Ever Vail if they have a nice space here,” said Councilwoman Kim Newbury, who was agreeing with Councilwoman Margaret Rogers’ earlier comments.

The cost of the welcome center building would be in the neighborhood of $7 million – meaning the Vail Recreation District space would be about 35 percent of that cost, said Architect Lou Bieker, associate principal at 4240 Architecture.

Councilwoman Susie Tjossem said she wants more information from the Vail Recreation District before they spend an extra $3 million or so on building a space that could end up being temporary.

Town Council members said the cost per square foot, however, is a screaming deal and they should consider the community room space on a third floor especially because they removed such a space from the West Vail Fire Station, which is currently under construction.

And the big looming question is still, of course, parking. Would the new uses at the welcome center include parking requirements per the town code. If so, none of the options presented include adding a single parking space anywhere.

“Parking triggers could have a significant impact on the realism of a community center,” said Councilwoman Kerry Donovan.

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