BRECKENRIDGE — Last week, Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge announced their plans to build a long-awaited gondola connecting Peaks 7 and 8 with the town below.
This week, Vail announced that the project to develop the area around the gondola stop at Peak 7 is also finally under way.“Between the gondola announcement and this (news), the past week or two has been great for Breckenridge,” said Alex Iskenderian, vice-president of development for Vail Resorts Development Company (VRDC).“We’re really taking Breckenridge real estate to a new level with this project,” Iskenderian said.
VRDC and locally owned Grand Timber Development Company are partners on the project to develop the new base area at Peak 7. Plans call for 44 whole ownership condominiums developed by VRDC and a 114-unit fractional ownership facility developed by Grand Timber.
Work began last week clearing trees in the Cucumber Gulch area, so that County Road 3 (which winds from the top of the Peak 8 base area, past the popular Peaks Trail trailhead, and descends back to town) can be moved down the hillside lower than it currently runs.
Eventually, to take the new road from Peak 8, drivers will hang a right where the current Stables Lot is. That will run them smack-dab into the new development, and the road will reconnect on the other side near the Peaks Trail lot.
Along with the road shift, developers will be moving the relatively new Peak 7 Independence SuperChair about 100 yards down from where it loads skiers and riders today.
Vail Resorts will add a couple of towers to relocate the lift, and the new base area will spring up around the new lift site. Development timeline runs through next year. The work begun last week kicks off the project and sets in motion the infrastructure development phase of the project. Work to move the road, and to begin to develop the necessary utilities, will happen throughout the spring and summer, Iskenderian said.
Developers have also reached an agreement with the town to build a long bridge spanning a wetlands area near the development. That bridge construction will start later this summer.
As far as construction of the development itself, both the Vail Resorts piece and the Grand Timber section are likely to begin going up in spring 2007. Each group will hire their own general contractor, but they’ve worked together throughout the planning and design phases of the project.“We’re designing this village as one village, and it will be consistently themed,” Iskenderian said.
Sales of the properties will follow different schedules for the two development groups, however. Vail Resorts plans to take their units to market later this year, pre-construction.
They’ve set completion targets for the new gondola for around the same time.For Grand Timber, sales of their fractional ownership units won’t happen until the buildings go up. They’re expected on the market by Christmas 2007.“Not much” commercial development planned for Peak 7A concern of a number of Breckenridge business owners over the planning stages of the project had been how much commercial development would be included in the new Peak 7 base area.
Maintaining the vibrancy and commercial traffic in Breck’s Main Street district as new development grew up-mountain had been an issue raised during the process. Iskenderian allayed those concerns, saying the amount of commercial development around Peak 7 would be “not much.”Included in the development plans on the Vail Resorts’ side is a 4,000-square-foot restaurant that the resort will operate, and a 4,000-square-foot skier services facility which will be “a place to buy lift tickets, rent some skis, and buy some sunscreen,” Iskenderian said.
Grand TImber’s commercial plans are more geared toward amenities for the guests of the resort. They plan an upper-end spa similar to the one at their Grand Timber Lodge, and an expansive indoor-outdoor combination pool and hot tub facility. They’ve also set aside more than 2,000 square feet for a “family funcenter” — the details of that are still being worked out.“In our business model, having a really exceptional amenity package is a key element to the success of the project,” said Grand Timber’s Mike Dudick, a co-owner and developer of the project.
Resort amenities are really the only commercial development included in the project.“The (Breckenridge Town) Council was very much interested in not seeing the commercial development compete with the downtown. And our dealings with the (Breckenridge Resort Chamber) and the restaurant association and the retail group all confirmed that same concern,” Breckenridge town manager Tim Gagen said. Gagen added that the current commercial plans more than meet with the town’s approval.“I think our argument really played out that the wise thing was to minimize commercial ... and focus more on the residential and amenity package,” he said.
The question of density for the new development was settled back in 2003, when Vail Resorts transferred a number of high-density units planned for development in the Sawmill and Watson parking lots to the projects at Peak 7 and 8. Some commercial density still remains in the parking lot areas, but Vail Resorts also extinguished some that didn’t get transferred.
Iskenderian called the density swaps a net decrease, and a “great win for the town.” Gagen echoed those thoughts. “It was win-win for us in the sense of both less density, but also achieving getting the density off of those big lots, and putting it in a place that we thought better served the town,” he said. Vail’s sunsetting of a certain amount of density upheld the goals of the Upper Blue Master Plan, and was “a very strong commitment on their part,” Gagen said.
Impacts to the protected Cucumber Gulch area Tree cutting within the environmentally sensitive Cucumber Gulch area near the new development is happening now, as per an agreement with the town that includes a number of protections for the area.
Developers are removing trees now because it’s the best time of year to do it with the least impact to the ecosystem there, before migrating birds come back to the area to nest. Iskenderian points out that the project agreement actually sets aside a portion of the gulch once zoned for development.“Probably the biggest protection is the fact that we’ve dedicated 56 acres of the gulch to the town as part of the approvals,” he said. As to the proposed development for the Peak 8 area, no timetable has been set, but Iskenderian was “optimistic that Peak 8 is going to follow in the footsteps of Peak 7.”
To keep track of Vail resorts real estate development visit: MrBreckenridgeRealEstate.com