The Town of Vail is introducing the first stages of a master planning process that will rely heavily on community engagement to determine how best to incorporate community needs and goals in preparing for future improvements to town-owned properties in the heart of Vail. To learn more about the Civic Area Master Plan process, the town is hosting a community open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 in the Grand View on the third level of the Lionshead Welcome Center.
The Civic Area study will identify opportunities for a number of prominent town sites encompassing a 10-acre area to include the Lionshead Parking and Transportation Center, charter bus lot, Dobson Ice Arena, Vail Public Library, Vail Municipal Building complex, as well as sections of Gore Creek that traverse the area.
The community engagement activities will be driven by a new online forum, engagevail.com, which will offer opportunities to take part in surveys, discussions and information-sharing throughout the planning process. To help get the conversation started, the town is inviting community members to log on, register and take a short survey hosted by engagevail.com beginning Dec. 11. The concurrent open house will be used to share information about the community engagement process, introduce members of the project team and collect feedback on the series of questions that will serve as the foundation for the master plan. The open house will include light refreshments; free parking will be available in the Lionshead parking structure for entries after 3 p.m.
The survey questions will help identify the qualities that make for a great civic space in Vail, what is currently working, what is missing and any “big ideas” to be pursued. Responses to the survey will be collected until Jan. 25, 2019, and will be used to inform the initial site concepts and future improvements for the area. Anyone who loves Vail is invited to participate. This includes full- and part-time residents, property owners, business owners, employees, students, guests and anyone else.
The Civic Area Master Plan process will take approximately 11 months and will involve multiple opportunities to be involved in the planning and design process, including additional online engagement, “pop-up” outreach events and stakeholder/focus groups. The town will also be working directly with organizations such as the Eagle River Youth Coalition to empower and include youth in the planning process.
Once initial phases of community engagement have been completed, the design team will begin working to understand programing and planning considerations related to ideas derived from the community. This evaluation will include involvement from civil engineering, environmental, traffic and economic/market specialists on the project team. Up to three alternative development concepts will be prepared and following review by the Town Council, a preferred concept will be selected. This concept will be incorporated into a maser plan for the Civic Area that is expected to be released for public review in late July. The Planning and Environmental Commission will review the plan in August and September and the Town Council’s review is planned to occur in September and October. Opportunities for public comment will take place throughout the review and adoption process.
The Civic Area planning process is being guided by a multi-disciplinary Colorado-based consultant group with representation from 4240 Architects, Braun Associates, Inc., Russell Mills Studio and Trestle Strategy Group. The team was selected for its expertise in citizen engagement, urban planning and urban design.
Completion of the Civic Area Plan has been identified as a high priority by the Vail Town Council. Upon adoption by the Town Council in 2019, the plan will provide guidance on future decision-making, funding and implementation of improvements to the Civic Area.
The majority of the study area is contained within a Tax Increment Finance District, established in 2005, and represents the last phase of a planning effort that has included adoption of the Lionshead Redevelopment Master Plan in 1998 and related TIF-funded improvements to include construction of a new transit center and welcome center, plus streetscape improvements, remodel of the library, guest service enhancements, reconstruction of the Lionshead parking entry and construction of the Zeke M. Pierce Skatepark. Most recently, TIF funds have been used to fund the town’s portion of the Sandstone underpass. The TIF district will expire in 2030 in accordance with state law following a 25-year collection period of approximately $88.2 million in total. A projected $32 million remains and is available to secure bonding for future projects in the district to be identified in the master plan.
To provide additional structure to the planning process, the following goals have been identified:
- Identify the community’s opinions of how to best utilize the land within the defined study area for the Civic Area Plan;
- Evaluate and comprehend the issues, opportunities and constraints that will influence the development of the Civic Area, including the identification of potential highest and best uses;
- Prepare a plan that is viable, is reflective of the community’s goals, is economically feasible in terms of market considerations and is responsive to the site and the surrounding neighborhoods, and;
- Define strategies to guide future decision-making and the implementation of improvements to the Civic Area that will establish vibrant, aesthetically pleasing and thoughtfully designed places that will serve the needs of the local community and guests.
Also, the following facts and existing conditions have been established as follows:
- The Vail Town Council, acting as both the Vail Reinvestment Authority and the property owner of those parcels within the study area, has the final decision-making authority;
- The master planning area is assumed to include those properties delineated within the study area map;
- The Town of Vail, which relies upon visitor-based revenues, seeks to be economically diverse and competitive;
- The Dobson Ice Arena, with the possible inclusion of adjoining undeveloped property, could serve a significant role in providing multiple uses on a year-round basis;
- Affordable (deed restricted) housing remains a high need for the Town of Vail and throughout the community;
- Emerging technologies should be employed within the context of the plan when and where opportunities arise;
- Proposed development should be consistent with the town’s commitment to environmental sustainability;
- Community engagement tools shall be utilized to foster strong public outreach and citizen participation;
- The Lionshead Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District expires June 6, 2030 and revenues from TIF need to be expended by that time;
- These future TIF revenues could be used, as they have in the past, to secure a bond issuance that would enable the financing of some or all of the plan outcomes in the near future.
The Town of Vail is committed t working with the community in innovative and interactive ways to encourage participation across the community. For more information, contact Matt Gennett, community development director, at 970-479-2146 or email mgennett.
Background and History
This is not the first time the town has studied the use of different parcels located within the study area. In the late 1980s and again in the early 2000s, the town studied the charter bus lot, located immediately east of the Lionshead parking structure for the potential development of a conference center. In 1999 the town hosted a design charrette competition in which three design teams competed to develop a master plan for a Community Facilities Project in the Lionshead civic area. Then in the mid 2000s a joint public-private partnership looked at redeveloping the Lionshead parking structure site. In 2012 the town and the then-Vail Valley Medical Center and partners looked at a joint public-private partnership of redeveloping the municipal site in conjunction with the hospital site. None of the previous efforts made it to construction. The goal and intent of this Civic Area Plan is to take a fresh new look at the needs of our community now and into the future and understand the opportunities that may be available for the multiple parcels within the study area and develop a master plan around those needs and opportunities.