Scott N. Miller, Vail Daily, July 31, 2014
VAIL — After several years and a few false starts, the job of replacing the Timber Ridge apartments should start in the next few weeks.
Work was supposed to begin in May to replace the apartments on the eastern side of the 10-acre parcel. That work was delayed when a development team led by Gary Gorman and longtime valley resident Jen Wright ran into unexpected hurdles obtaining financing for the project.
Wright said the hang-up primarily involved the length of the land lease for the new apartments. The original agreement called for a 35-year lease. But, Wright said, lenders all asked for a longer lease term. The Vail Town Council on Tuesday will be asked to extend that lease out to 50 years, which will enable the developers to complete their financing agreements.
George Ruther, head of Vail’s Community Development Department, said the lease extension could be a good thing for both the town and the developers. The developers get the extra years lenders require, while the town will get another 15 years of lease payments on the property.
If council members approve the deal, Wright said construction work could start in the next few weeks.
While building hasn’t yet begun, Wright’s group has been working to get ready to tear down the eight existing buildings that will make way for four new ones. That work right now is focused on removing asbestos from the 1970s-vintage buildings, a project that came as something of a surprise to everyone involved. That work should be finished in the next couple of weeks, Wright said.
When work does start, Wright said it will take about a year to get the first of the planned 113 units ready to rent. Wright said most should be ready to rent by the time the 2015-16 ski season begins, with the rest coming to market during the season.
When the new apartments are ready to rent, they’ll come to market with year-round tenants in mind. The new apartments will have storage lockers for every unit, and every apartment will get its own laundry equipment.
Town Council member Greg Moffet said more room and better amenities is a matter of “respect for the people we have working for us.”
Town Council member Margaret Rogers opposed the current plan, asking instead for more units on the property. Now, though, she said she wants this plan executed as quickly as it can.
While the eastern half of the property is ready to be rebuilt — and renamed Lions Ridge — nearly 100 of the older Timber Ridge units remain. While there was talk several years ago of re-doing the entire site, Ruther said the western half of the complex will stay as it is for the foreseeable future.
Ruther said the town — which owns the property — is putting about $1.3 million this year into exterior and interior renovations on the western half of the property. No one puts that kind of money into 92 units unless they’re going to stay in the rental pool for a long time.
But, with Vail Resorts leasing about half the units and individuals renting the rest, Ruther said revenue from the western half of the property pays the town’s remaining debt on the entire parcel.
While construction will take more than 100 apartments out of Vail’s rental pool for the coming ski season, Ruther said he expects people will be able to find other housing in the valley.
“We knew there would be some short-term impact, but this is the only way we can re-develop the property,” Ruther said.
When construction does begin, it will mark the end of a long period of planning and several false starts. Moffet said one such plan was well underway when he ended his first stint on council in 2007. And Rogers said she made getting Timber Ridge re-done part of her first campaign for a council seat.
“That was six-and-a-half years ago now,” Rogers said. “This has been a long time coming.”