Pluses and minuses
By Mark Reaman
One element of the proposed Nordic Inn expansion request in Mt. Crested Butte that hasn’t received a lot of attention is the deal between the town and the developer with public parking.
The town will get 75 underground public parking spaces beneath the new hotel in exchange for giving Pearls Management, LLC about one and a third acres of property, for which the town paid $1,050,000. The Mt. Crested Butte Downtown Development Authority will also contribute another $1,001,708 to the developer to help offset costs of constructing parking spaces.
The idea is that the town is in need of parking and this provides an expensive public amenity to the business district near the entrance to the ski area. The deal started several years ago when the concept of a Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center was going to be built in the gravel parking lot across from the Nordic Inn. That would have eliminated parking spaces so the town began looking for more parking areas.
Eventually the Nordic Inn received a Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval for an expansion to the hotel of about 80,000 square feet. The town then purchased the lot north of the Nordic Inn from Pearls. Part of that PUD approval allowed a portion of the expanded hotel to be placed above a surface parking lot that had approximately 150 spaces.
But Pearls came back with a new idea and is in the process of asking for a major alteration to the current PUD approval for a larger, approximately 100,000-square-foot expansion for a higher-end hotel. The proposal calls for underground parking on the site. The town and developer have agreed to dedicate 75 of the 220 parking spaces as public. While the garage will be paid parking, the developer will manage the parking garage and the town will receive a royalty of 12.5 percent of the gross revenue generated from the public parking spaces.
If this PUD alteration is approved by the town, a contract will be drawn up that details how the public parking will work. Pearls will manage the underground parking lot and issues such as overnight parking, maximum daily rates and the sharing of data about the parking garage usage will be worked out.
“Pearls believes that there will be more than the 75 spaces available to the public on most days,” explained Pearls attorney Aaron Huckstep. “We think it is a good deal for the town to get this type of public underground parking amenity at a cost less than what it would be to build. Underground parking is substantially more expensive than a surface lot.”
Town manager Joe Fitzpatrick said parking is always a premium in Mt. Crested Butte. “A surface parking lot was contemplated for that land but when Pearls came back with a major alteration to the already approved PUD, it included underground parking and a bigger hotel. This is cheaper than the town building a parking garage,” he explained.
Mt. Crested Butte mayor Janet Farmer said the latest parking deal has both pluses and minuses.
“During the initial sale of the Nordic Inn, there was an agreement that the town would purchase part of the land that we would eventually use for a paved, uncovered parking lot. As time passed, the plans for the Nordic Inn changed and they reached out to the town to work with them to include a covered parking lot as part of their design,” Farmer explained.
“The benefits for the town,” continued Farmer, “would be that the parking would be covered and the Nordic Inn would manage the construction of the garage and administer the collection of fees for use of the parking lot. The downside is that we will have fewer parking spaces than the original plans. Several of the council members were concerned about the reduced number of spaces, but the overall consensus was that the benefits for the town outweighed this concern. As for the funding, the money will come from the Downtown Development Authority, which has approved the expenditure.”
Under the development agreement between the two parties, Pearls must start construction of the parking garage no later than December 31, 2025, which is when the DDA “sunsets.” Pearls can send a request to the town 45 days prior to breaking ground asking for the additional $1,001,708 from the DDA. That figure plus the original purchase price the town paid Pearls for the property amounts to the estimated cost of building the surface parking lot. The town’s 12.5 percent royalty fee of gross revenue associated with the public parking spaces will be paid to the town monthly.
If the town denies the new Pearls PUD application, the developer will have 45 days to submit a new application. If after three denials or in the event Pearls elects not to revise and submit a modified application, Pearls would be obligated to convey the property back to the town at no charge.
Another slice of land owned by the town at the north end of the parking lot parcel will be used as open space.
The town Planning Commission voted to pass the proposal on to the Town Council for its consideration. The council will hold a public hearing on the PUD proposal at the Wednesday, November 6 Town Council meeting.