As Eagle residents vote on development, two community advocates weigh both sides of the issue.
Introduction by Phil Lindeman
For nearly three years, plans for a new development on the east end of Eagle have been the big question mark for the town’s future. A major proposal, Eagle River Station, would transform a swath of land on the east end of town into something akin to Silverthorne in Summit County: a retail center capitalizing on the area’s one natural resource – space.
This project has drawn admirers and detractors since the beginning, each with compelling arguments for Eagle’s future as an economic hub in Eagle County. Two of the most vocal advocacy groups – “Eagle, Co – Keep It Real?” and land developer RED Development – have fought for the economic stability of the town with different iteration of Eagle River Station, which now includes close-proximity residential areas, restaurant property and retail space for big box stores similar to Costco.
Before any building can take place, though, the town’s residents must approve the development, much like the remaining phases of Avon’s Traer Creek space. In time for a public vote on May 22, SneakPEAK asked two leaders from the most vocal groups – including Brandi Resa, a newly elected member of the town board, and the developer’s social-media manager, August Wittenberg – to discuss the pros, cons and future of the proposal at stake for Eagle River Station.
Campaign Lead for Eagle, Co – Keep It Real!
We believe a citizen’s voice should matter. Instead of a smaller project following denial by voters in January 2010, the developer came back with 30-percent more retail (space) and more parking. Most citizens who oppose this project are not against development, particularly in east Eagle. But the size, national corporate nature and cost of this project simply do not embrace our unique small-town character. And the “Anywhere, USA” aspect of it does nothing to showcase our recently branded name, “Classic Colorado,” and risks eliminating our marketing effectiveness that now has a dedicated funding source and staff.
Since no model or drive-by simulation was provided by the developer for citizens to see the true scale, some might have a hard time envisioning 550 housing units with little outdoor space, 59-foot-tall buildings (Brush Creek Saloon is 42 feet tall), or the allowed 3,660 parking spaces (Avon’s Walmart/Home Depot has 1,405).
It seems difficult to imagine the projected revenues associated with this project at full build-out, because if you look around the valley (let alone the country), many projects do not get fully built. This project is entirely dependent on low gas prices, and the developer’s projections include Steamboat Springs, Silt and Frisco in their primary trade area, which comprises 60 to 65 percent of the revenue.
We also have a hard time accepting some of their job numbers, such as 300 restaurant jobs in Phase I. Even if we assume 60 jobs per restaurant, that is five restaurants for Phase I alone. The developer’s report states that all revenue from this project will be new revenue (not shifted from other Eagle businesses), and if you look at five new restaurants opening and say, “This will not affect the existing businesses,” this seems unreasonable.
Although Eagle is facing challenging times like most households, towns and businesses, the town has held steady during these tough economic times and has a budget that fits our size. We fully support development and growth, but we believe we can have a project that embraces who we are as a community and does not require such expensive infrastructure (such as the $16 to $22 million interchange), which is not needed but for this project.
Please check www.YesToEagle.com or our Facebook page, “Eagle, Co - Keep It Real!” We ask that people trust in their community and their newly elected mayor, Yuri Kostick, and vote “no” (again) on May 22.
SayNoMore! Promotions – Social Media Manager for Eagle River Station.
Before my wife and I decided to work with RED (Development), we did our own research to make sure that we felt comfortable aligning ourselves with their firm. From talking to different people who have worked first-hand with RED outside of our community and from meeting with Jeff McMahon and Dave Claflin from the development company, we decided to accept the job.
RED Development is a first-rate retail developer that cares about their projects and their communities. RED has never had a development “go dark,” and with existing properties, their occupancy rate is between 85 and 100 percent. On newer properties (including ERS), RED will not begin construction until they have 65 percent occupancy. It is healthy for the development for an underperforming tenant to “go dark” and bring in a better-performing tenant. Additionally, because of RED’s great track record for successful developments, they can attract top-name retailers.
The opposition has distorted or been inaccurate with some of the facts in their campaign. They say ERS is 30-percent larger than the first plan. The project is on the exact same piece of land as was originally brought to the town for development. The people of Eagle said they did not want as much housing or a hotel – so RED redesigned ERS by reducing the housing and making them rental units. They also eliminated the hotel, and 250 of those housing units are in Phase II. Phase II can be changed by approval of the Town Trustees if the market is better suited for something else. By replacing housing units and a hotel with additional retail space, ERS will actually bring more money to the town through sales-tax revenue.
Also, ERS is not 80 percent bigger than Glenwood Meadows. Phase I of Glenwood Meadows is approved for 100 acres (currently 66 acres are built). ERS is approved for 58 acres in Phase I. In Phase II, Glenwood Meadows is approved for an additional 52 acres, and ERS Phase II is only an additional 28 acres.
RED development is giving us a project that will greatly improve our town finances and economy through increased jobs and sales-tax revenue. The increase in jobs and town infrastructure will also help property values.
If you have any questions about RED, their history or Eagle River Station, please contact me or ask questions on the Eagle River Station Facebook page. We have a great opportunity before us – vote “yes” on ERS.