The town of Snowmass Village on Monday voted to allow two construction firms tackling the $55 million overhaul of the Silvertree Hotel, Snowmass Conference Center and Wildwood Lodge to close Elbert Lane to private vehicles starting April 16.
The Town Council also voted unanimously to lease 80 parking spaces to McGuire Builders and RA Nelson during the seven-month project that will transform the Silvertree into the Westin Snowmass Resort.
From May until August, the project will see an estimated 400 workers a day, representatives of RA Nelson and the new owners — Wasserman Real Estate Capital and Starwood Capital Group — told the council.
McGuire Builders will handle the Silvertree renovation while RA Nelson has been tapped for the Wildwood and conference center, said Aspen attorney Joe Krabacher, representing the owners.
Many of the construction crews will be housed in lodges on the upper mall, and in Club Commons units next to the Snowmass Club, to lessen road trips. Others will take shuttles from the Brush Creek intercept lot to the worksite, said Mak Keeling, a McGuire representative.
“You’re going to see a lot of people walking to and from work,” he said.
Under the firms’ construction management plan, fencing gates will be installed across Elbert Lane near Snowmelt Road. A 23-foot-wide, two-lane access path will remain to allow emergency vehicles, and there will be a traffic manager on site from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to coordinate merchant deliveries and construction trucks, and prevent pedestrians from wandering in.
Keeling, asked by Snowmass Councilman John Wilkinson about access to the pedestrian path, said the expectation is to have the walkway open 24 hours a day. The path is to have directional signs for businesses on Elbert Lane and will be lit at night.
Mayor Bill Boineau also said the town will make a concerted effort to let the public know that shops on the mall will still be open for business.
John Mele, fire marshal of the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District, said with the construction fencing, the road will narrow to 19 feet wide. A large fire truck will fit but only barely so, he said.
Mele showed the council several photographs that district staff took to capture the occasional chaos of upper Elbert Lane. The photos showed a mess of vehicles and people getting ready to attend a conference; others showed myriad delivery vehicles that can clog up the area.
“I can count at least two instances” where ambulances could not reach the Silvertree for medical emergencies, he said.
Councilman Fred Kucker said having a traffic manager on site will alleviate congestion and that the person can “clear a path” in case of an emergency. The photos were not representative of what the scene will look like during the project, he said.
“I think it’s a little overkill,” Kucker said.
“I don’t,” Mele said. “If you give me the pulpit I’m going to preach a little bit because this is a serious issue for Snowmass. We’re going to be strong and firm with these guys.
“They know we’re going to work with them and try to continually improve emergency access.”
The parking spaces near the mall will likely cost the construction firms, or the developer, $28,000, said Town Manager Russ Forrest. That breaks down to $50 a space for 80 spaces for seven months and is akin to what the town has charged a rafting company to use the area, he said.
The construction management plans have already taken into account scores of special events that the town mandated not be disrupted, including the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest and the Thursday free concert series.
Wilkinson said the developers and construction companies had a tough chore in pushing to get the Westin Snowmass and Wildwood online by their scheduled openings of Nov. 15 while keeping disruptions to a minimum. The conference center is slated to reopen June 1 so summer group business will not be lost.
“It’s very critical to get [the Westin Snowmass] open before Thanksgiving,” Wilkinson said. “We understand what it’s going to take.”