New $4M gondola proposed

'Cabriolet' would transport people from parking lot to ski area

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Whitney Ward and his development team released a plan Tuesday that would create between 400 and 500 new resort residential units and could lead to the construction of a $4 million gondola linking the ski area's remote parking lot with the gondola base.

In addition, Ward proposes a self-imposed "transfer fee" on all real estate sales within his development. It initially would generate as much as $2.5 million (at sales prices of $500 per square foot) for affordable housing, he predicted. It also offers the potential to generate more funds with every resale in perpetuity.

Ward said he hopes to forge a public-private partnership among his development team, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the city of Steamboat Springs to fund the gondola or "cabriolet."

"If we can accomplish that, it would be available to the public without a charge," Ward said. "The concept is to reduce all these buses running around (Mount Werner) Circle."

The cabriolet would be capable of delivering at least 1,200 people an hour to a new public deck adjacent to Gondola Square, Ward said.

The foundation for Ward's development is a pair of residential developments -- One Steamboat Place, adjacent to the Steamboat gondola, and Wildhorse Meadows.

One Steamboat Place would include a pair of condominium buildings comprising 105 to 125 units near the current ski gondola. The cabriolet would link them with the larger Wildhorse Meadows, which would create between 300 and 375 new residences on 47 acres wrapping around the ski area's remote parking lot.

Ward announced in June 2004 that he would partner with Dundee Realty USA of Avon on One Steamboat Place. Now, he has brought in two more development partners, one with a track record in the Yampa Valley.

Dundee will build a "whole ownership" condominium building at One Steamboat Place, and the Timbers Company of Carbondale proposes to develop a fractional ownership condominium building. Ward would have a minority role in One Steamboat Place. The Timbers Company previously developed The Timbers Club Slopeside at Snowmass.

The project also would create a new children's ski school building next to the gondola, with direct access to the slopes. Another component would be a private "Alpine Club" for real estate owners who could hand their skis to a valet and enjoy a quiet lunch at the club.

In addition, Ward has formed a 50-50 partnership with Cordillera (of Edwards) to take Wildhorse Meadows forward. Cordillera is the entity that developed Catamount Ranch and Club here six years ago.

Their new company is called Wildhorse Resort Ventures. They plan to build a mix of condominiums, townhomes and residential estates during six years. However, they could bring in other development entities to build portions of the project, Ward said.

Cordillera's president of community development, David Hill, will focus on developing Wildhorse Meadows. He came to Cordillera from Intrawest Corp., where he was responsible for resort development projects at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Keystone and at Copper Mountain.

Ward said he would like to break ground on site preparation and installation of utilities by summer 2006. Plans include relocating a historic barn on the site to the village center where one possible use is as a children's museum.

Ward said the architectural theme would evoke Routt County's ranch buildings.

"If Breckenridge is Victorian, and Keystone is mining, Steamboat is ranching," Ward said.

Other plans for Wildhorse Meadows include a recirculating stream feeding a trout pond, a children's sledding hill, putting greens and a country store.

Ward's plans to capture a half percent of real estate sales at Wildhorse Meadows and One Steamboat Place for affordable housing would begin with the original sales, he said. The funds would go to a separate not-for-profit agency. Its board of directors could regrant monies to entities furthering affordable housing, including the new regional housing authority.

Ward, who has been active on the boards of Habitat for Humanity in Eagle and Lake counties, said he realizes that resort developments drive housing prices upward and push some residents out of the housing market.

He said he would welcome the participation of other developers in his transfer fee and would make the nonprofit entity available to them.

"This can make a real dent in affordable housing in a permanent way," Ward said.

Plans for One Steamboat Place and Wildhorse Meadows have entered the pre-application phase of the city planning process. All site plans and elevation drawings are very tentative, said land planner Peter Patten of Patten Associates.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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