Breckenridge reaches an agreement with ski resort on parking garage
Breckenridge officials and Vail Resorts have come to terms regarding the framework for an agreement allowing the town to build its long-awaited parking garage on resort-owned land.
Representatives of Vail Resorts, the owner of Breckenridge Ski Resort, have been at bitter odds with the town over parking in the past. This year, however, brought a thawing in the strained relationship, and the two parties have been closing in on this landmark agreement for weeks now, if not longer.
Hammering out some of the lingering details earlier this week, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said town council decided Tuesday during closed-door discussions to have him sign a term sheet with the resort.
Over the phone, the mayor said the term sheet is expected to work its way into a lease agreement.
“We have our foot on the gas now,” he said of the town’s efforts to design and build a new parking garage on the South Gondola lot. He added that there are still a lot of little details to work out, but he believes the agreement they’ve reached will be in everyone’s best interest.
The mayor’s sentiments were echoed in a prepared statement from John Buhler, vice president and chief operating officer at Breckenridge Ski Resort: “We know that in-town parking is a critical need in Breckenridge, and we look forward to partnering with the town to bring new, incremental parking spaces to the South Gondola Lot for the community and our guests.”
The agreed-upon term sheet comes after Breckenridge Town Council was ready to build its parking garage at an entirely different location on town-owned property — the Tiger Dredge and F Lot surface parking lots — this spring.
Those plans stalled, though, after Vail Resorts showed its willingness with a late offer to work with the town on the South Gondola lot, which just about everyone in Breckenridge, including town council, feels is much better suited for such a structure because it’s less likely to trigger a highway-widening project deep into the heart of the downtown core.
“We think it’s a good deal,” Mamula said. “It’s a good compromise. We think we’re in a good place with a good partnership. I’m pretty pleased with it actually.”
According to a news release from the town, a groundbreaking on the new parking garage is expected to happen in spring 2020, and the new structure will create roughly 400 new parking spaces.
The plan will need approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which has a say in the parking garage because the road leading into the South Gondola lot is a state-controlled highway.
Other details of the agreement include Vail Resorts continuing as the owner of the property, but offering the town a 50-year lease with the option for two consecutive 10-year extensions.
A majority of council members had been stuck on the issue of ownership, saying the town should own the land if it’s going to spend taxpayer money to build a parking structure on it. Because the town is looking at this agreement as a potential 70-year lease, Mamula said, seven decades should cover the lifespan of the parking structure, and council was willing to make that concession.
While the resort will maintain ownership of the land, the parking garage will be wholly owned by the town. It will manage operations of the structure and surface parking lot on South Gondola Lot year-round, according to the town-issued news release.
For its part, Vail Resorts will control the price of parking at the South Gondola lot over the winters while the town will govern pricing throughout the rest of the year. Mamula described the resort’s desire to maintain control of winter pricing as a kind of “insurance policy” guaranteeing that the resort’s guests won’t get priced out of the South Gondola lot by the town.
The release also says the two parties are supposed to work together on parking management strategies, and Mamula said they will split revenue from the South Gondola lot based on the number of cars currently being parked there and the number of additional spaces the town creates by building the garage.
The structure will have to go through a traffic study and design-development phase.
Also, Vail Resorts will have a say in the design and footprint of the structure that’s to be built on its land.
Mamula described this as a fairly typical lease agreement, in which the owner preserves some level of control over the property. He said he doesn’t expect there will be any ownership issues.
“It’s in both of our interest to put it in the right place and make it look as good as it can,” Mamula said. “Their concerns, honestly, are our concerns. I don’t think any of us want to do the wrong thing. … I think, in the end, we both do really want the same thing.”
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