A new way to get on Vail Mountain
December 5, 2005
VAIL – Vail Resorts and the town of Vail are planning what will be built around the base of a ski lift planned for west Lionshead, an area poised for significant redevelopment.”We feel like this is an important new development for Vail,” said Councilman Farrow Hitt, a member of the planning committee.Vail Resorts has been buying land in the area of the south frontage and Forest roads, where it wants to build the lift.Jack Hunn, vice president of Vail Resorts Development Company, said the project will probably include hotels or condos, public parking, possibly a bus hub and perhaps retail space.The planning committee is trying to decide whether west Lionshead should be an entry point to the mountain similar in size to or smaller than Lionshead and Vail Village. Hunn said the west Lionshead area could be targeted toward locals and employees who are going up the mountain. That could mean creating a financial incentive that would compel merchant-pass holders to park in west Lionshead and ride the lift.
“This could be by design a more local-oriented portal,” Hunn said.That could free up more space in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking garages for other skiers, said Jay Peterson, an attorney for Vail Resorts.Buying up landVail Resorts announced its plans in June to build a new high-speed chairlift so skiers and snowboarders could get on the mountain from west Lionshead. The lift would connect to the bottom of Chair 26, the Pride Express Lift, which takes riders to Eagle’s Nest.The company bought the Vail Professional Building and the Cascade Crossing Shopping Center, a total of 1.8 acres, in August. Vail Resorts has an option to purchase the BP station and already owns the Holy Cross maintenance site.The gas station site would likely be used for snowcat maintenance that would take place mostly underground, Hunn said.
The base of the new lift would sit beside a new development built by Vail Resorts and managed by Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton Residences would include 108 condos of two, three and four bedrooms. The development received unanimous final approval from the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission on Monday. It now must get approval from the Design Review Board.Even before the plans for the new lift were announced, Vail Resorts’ nearby Gore Creek Townhomes sold in record time, bringing as much as $1,005 per square foot.Give and takeThe town and Vail Resorts are working out the details of the give-and-take that is part of the redevelopment process.Vail Resorts wants the Forest Service and the town’s approval. In order to get approval from the Forest Service, the lift must have benefits other than simply increasing real estate prices.
The company also will probably need new zoning for the Cascade Crossing Shopping Center and Vail Professional Building to redevelop the area, said Russ Forrest, the town of Vail’s community development director.As a result, the town could get a parking garage, sales tax from new shops and a bus hub.Hitt said he’s interested in a “portal” that would attract a lot of people to help expand the town’s retail base and help relieve the town’s parking crunch. The town, he added, wants to keep stores and offices in the area.”We’re concerned that those don’t get torn down and replaced with second or third homes,” he said.One idea for the redevelopment of the area is to relocate the frontage road so it runs alongside the interstate. That would connect the Holy Cross maintenance site with Lionshead.There are a lot of hurdles to overcome in relocating the frontage road, but it could be a good solution, Hitt said.”It might make sense to do that,” he said.