'It is the people's land' - Lionshead Parking structure proposals

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Open Hospitality Group/Hillwood Capital of Dallas is proposing a visual and performing arts center as part of its proposal for the Lionshead garage land.
Special to the Daily

Edward Stoner
November 23, 2006

VAIL - Councilman Greg Moffet said it's too soon for residents to endorse one developer or the other to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure.

"Let the competitive process play itself out, because we can all benefit from that," he said.

Still, the council listened to the public for about an hour on Tuesday on what they think of the $500 million proposals to redevelop the parking structure.

Two developers - East West Partners of Avon and Open Hospitality Group/Hillwood Capital of Dallas - have submitted proposals for the land that each include public parking, hotel rooms, condos, timeshares, a civic center, shops and a bus hub. The town could pick one of the developers to redevelop the site or choose not to do anything.

Some liked one proposal more than the other, while other residents spoke in more general terms about what they'd like to see in the redevelopment.


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East West Partners of Avon is proposing a civic center as part of its concept for the Lionshead parking garage site.
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Stan Cope, general manager of the Lodge Tower in Vail, said he likes the idea of a large ballroom that would bring conferences to town and business to local hotels.

"It could do a great deal for the town," he said.

Cope note that he's spent a lot of time studying the conference center business as Vail has wrestled with several conference center proposals over the last few years. Vail voters shot down a publicly funded conference center in November 2005.

Billy Suarez, owner of Billy's Island Grill, said perhaps the town needs to step back and consider what the best use of the land is.

"It is the people's land," he said. "Maybe we can think of better uses."

'I'd love to have silence'

Don Cohen, executive director of the Economic Council of Eagle County, urged the council to look closely at the financial plans of both developers.

"That's sometimes an overlooked issue," he said.

Cohen cited the stalled "Ruins" project that stood beside the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa for decades.

Robert Aikens, owner of Verbatim Booksellers, said he wants a break from the construction that has been going steady in Vail for several years as part of the town's "billion-dollar renewal."

"I'd love to have silence for at least one year," he said.

Councilman Kent Logan said the town would be in effect selling the land, although the council is not rushing forward with any action.

"None of us feel any pressure to do anything anytime soon," he said.

Though the town would be selling the land, it would get lots of things in return, Logan said. For one, the town would replace an aging parking garage and getting another 200 to 300 public parking spaces, Logan said. He also cited road improvements, employee housing and more customers for local businesses.

"We're taking the value of this property and we're turning it into other assets," he said.

The town has a timeline that has the council making a decision in December. Councilman Farrow Hitt noted that that schedule has been pushed back once and probably will be pushed back again.

"There is no gun to our head to make this decision now," he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO