If Atira Group wins approval from the city of Steamboat Springs to redevelop the Thunderhead Lodge and Condominiums, it will ask for a five-year grace period instead of the standard three years before it must pull a building permit.
Atira Vice President of Development Mark Mathews said Thursday that his company was eager to begin marketing and building the twin eight-story condominium hotel buildings that would replace the old Thunderhead at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. He was speaking before about 30 people during the first of three successive presentations in the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
Mathews acknowledged the challenges of moving forward in the current economic climate.
"Our goal is to begin construction as soon as we get entitlements, as well as the market permits," Mathews said.
City Planning Services Manager John Eastman said earlier Thursday that as soon as Atira wins approval for its final development permit, the clock begins running on the three-year period the company has to pull a building permit.
A variety of fees come due at that time, including tap fees and $2.6 million in affordable housing fees in lieu of actually building affordable units.
"We'll ask for five years," Mathews told his audience at the Sheraton. "There are millions of dollars (that come due) at that point. We have strong, strong partners and financials. What we don't want is to do it get halfway into it," and have an issue.
Atira also would like to begin marketing presales soon and will continue studying market trends reflected at its nearby project, Edgemont, before launching a sales effort, Mathews said. He confirmed that the ideal time to market a ski property is ski season and added that timing is particularly important in a challenging market, a sign that presales aren't likely to begin before December 2009.
Atira has been working with city staff on its application since April 2007. The group will take another big step Thursday, when it goes before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission to seek a recommendation of approval for its development plan.
The application anticipates 100 residential units averaging about 2,300 square feet, along with two restaurants and shops in 390,000 square feet.
Mathews said an operator of five-star hotels has signed a letter of intent to run the new property, but he declined to identify the company or the financial backer for the project.
The Thunderhead Lodge and Condominiums, which dated to the 1960s, were torn down in late summer 2008, with much of the material left by the demolition recycled.
Mathews told his audience the care taken in demolition was the first evidence of Atira's commitment to seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, silver certification for green building practices in the construction of the new eight-story buildings.
Green building is among several categories of public benefit that Atira promises to provide, in part to satisfy requirements needed to win a building height variance the company is seeking on the Thunderhead site.
Under the community development code, the maximum allowable building height in the zone district at the base of the gondola is 73 feet. Atira is proposing to build one building to 104 feet and the second to 102 feet.
Public benefits to offset the variance include providing economic sustainability and achieving the goal of removing obsolete buildings as called for in the city's Base Area Plan, Mathews said.
Documents on file at the city's planning department mention a public seating terrace adjacent to the ski area, public restrooms, a public fireplace and a small performance venue - all among public benefits with an aggregate construction value of about $1.7 million.
Senior City Planner Jonathan Spence pointed out that the nearby One Steamboat Place development, which topped out early this winter, is 106 feet tall.
Some neighbors of Atira's project already have registered their opposition to the variance with the city. They include condominium owners in the Bronze Tree building on the north side of Ski Time Square.
Clayton Thomas, a member of the board of directors of the Bronze Tree Homeowners Association, and his wife, Bonnie, wrote to Planning Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer to register their opposition to the Atira plan.
"What a tragedy this will be if this height and building shape is approved," they wrote. "This building is on the very edge of the ski slope and disregards the interests of other property owners whose views would be reduced or eliminated. It is like putting the tallest and widest people in the front row for a class picture!"