By Polly Mikula
The K-1 Lodge provided ample space, great acoustics and a stunning backdrop for this year’s Killington Community Update held Oct. 19.
By Polly Mikula
Great Gulf bought the rights and permitted plans to develop a village at the base of Killington Resort in May setting in motion a plan that’s been decades in waiting. The new village is permitted to replace Snowshed and Ramshead lodges, as well as build condos and retail spaces at the base of the mountain on 1,095 acres of development land (the village portion will be 450 acres). Permits for Phase 1 includes about 32,000 square feet of commercial space and 225 new units of housing with a mix of condos (193 units), townhomes, and single-family homes.
Michael Sneyd, president of the Resort Residential Division of Great Gulf called the permitted plans “a substantial foundation,” and “a very good plan” at the annual Killington Update, Thursday, Oct. 19 at Killington’s K-1 Lodge, adding, “but we think Killington deserves something better than very good. We believe this ski village should be better than any other ski village.”
Great Gulf is a multifaceted company that includes commercial, mixed-use, and residential development, construction management, manufacturing, and more. The company has built more than 90,000 homes in 20 cities across the country.
“Although Hart Howerton [architectural designer for the village as permitted by SP Land] is a terrific architect, I think times have really changed over the past 15 years since that vision for this project originated,” Sneyd said. “Since then, we’ve learned a lot about best practices for village developments.”
The newly proposed design create a pedestrian-friendly village (instead of a central bus stop), an obvious main street (where there wasn’t one), public green spaces (instead of private ones), an enhanced experience of Snowshed Pond (rather partially filling it in), and one iconic base lodge (instead of two, with a second story connection over Killington Road). Future phases plan to fill out the village with more amenities for activities, public parks and walking paths.
“If you go back and look at the Act 250 approved plans, you’ll see it’s vehicular centric, so the village square is not really a village square as much as it’s a village bus stop,” Sneyd told the crowd of locals in the K-1 lodge Thursday.
Once the roads were removed from the village interior, “we had more land to play with and we didn’t have to fill in the pond,” Sneyd added.
Great Gulf has hired international firms Safdie Architects and PWP Landscape Architecture to help redesign the village.
“We knew early on, only a world-class design team could realize our vision for the four-season mountain resort we believe is the future of Killington,” stated Elly Reisman, chairman of Great Gulf on LiveKillington.com.
Safdie Architects is a design studio driven by a spirit of innovation and idealism, founded upon the principles that architecture should be inherently timeless, connected to nature, and profoundly humane, according to a news release announcing their partnership with Great Gulf. “Their design philosophy is rooted in the metaphor, ‘For Everyone a Garden,’ perceiving architecture as a generous act of creating meaningful spaces that serve as catalysts for vibrant public life.”
Architect Moshe Safdie said his “goal is to capture the spirit of and character of a Vermont village in a contemporary rendition of vital public spaces for all seasons.”
Safdie was the director of urban design at Harvard before establishing Safdie Architects, which is headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts. Safdie is know for his work on some of the world’s most innovative residential and hospitality projects, including the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore and Sri Lanka’s sky-defining Altair Residences. In North America, the firm is responsible for creating the renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Missouri.
Safdie Architects has collaborated with PWP Landscape Architecture on a number of projects internationally. PWP is perhaps best known for their work on the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, creating the world’s largest indoor waterfall at the Jewel Chang Airport in Singapore and the 5.4-acre rooftop Salesforce Park in San Francisco.
“We’re going to celebrate everything Vermont has to offer with different landscaped elements,” Sneyd summarized.
Year-round attractions, activity
New plans for the Killington Village call for a “very prominent pedestrian Main Street where people will want to meet, promenade, shop, and stop in cafes,” Sneyd explained. Additionally, there are “two significant gathering areas: the main town square in the middle of the village and the Snowbeach square that celebrates the biggest ski beach in the East.”
The ski beach connects the Snowshed lift and the Ramhead lift. “And it’s flat the whole way,” Sneyd explained. Killington Road will be depressed underneath it and the skiers will go over it on a wide flat bridge. Killington Road will then continue up to K-1 via Vale Road.
The new plans are more modern (and safe), with well thought-out details (like prioritizing lines of sight up to the slopes and across the pond) and feature an iconic new base lodge.
But the potential to see Killington more fully actualized and enjoyed year-round is what gets leaders at Great Gulf, Killington Resort and town officials most excited.
“We’re going to celebrate water and we’re going to celebrate snow and we want to celebrate gathering by having activities, amenities and events that provide interest beyond just being on snow and provide interest all year long,” said Sneyd.
“The village will be a hub of activity,” said Killington Resort President and CEO Mike Solimano summarized. “Whether it’s something like ice skating or concerts, this will give people in the area a great place to come together and hang out, not to mention improving the availability of real estate and infrastructure in the Killington region.”
Sneyd often compares the potential for Killington’s new village to Blue Mountain — the largest ski village in Ontario, which he helped develop. “I’m able to take a lot of the lessons that we’ve learned over the years at Blue Mountain and apply them to Killington,” he explained.
“Blue Mountain does 750,000 skier visits a year — with just 700 vertical. And winter isn’t even their primary draw anymore,” he said, noting that Killington differs in that it has far larger mountains to play on. “But they do 2 million total visits a year… so they’re busier in the spring, summer and fall than in the winter!” he emphasized. “The reason is the village was designed to be a gathering place and people come from afar for enjoy mountain activities and events all year long.”
Because Great Gulf is planning for a major change to the permitted transportation plan, the new plans will now have to be approved by Act 250 — Vermont’s land use and development law, an extensive permitting process. SP Land Company first submitted plans for zoning, cite plan and Act 250 in 2008. They were approved seven years later in 2015.
“We had a decision to make: Do we change things ever so slightly, and then go for an administrative approval from Act 250?” Sneyd explained. “But as soon as we realized that we were changing traffic, we thought, ‘okay, it’s not going to be an administrative approval.’ So we’re going to have to go through this process — it’s the whole thing again,” he said.
Might as well redesign the plans to be the best they can be, they reasoned.
Sneyd expects to submit the new plans to Act 250 in January 2024. Timing from there is “hard to say… I mean, we would love it to take six to nine months.”
If Act 250 goes quickly, construction could start as early as Spring 2025, Sneyd said. Once it gets started it will take two years to build out Phase 1. “Then, as soon as we get Phase 1 on its way, we’ll be working on the next phase of the village, which is really filling out the village,” he explained.
“We think it’ll be worth it,” Sneyd added. “Look, we could just go ahead and build the permitted village and it’d be ok, but we think we can do much better… We want to do something absolutely iconic.”
Great Gulf’s new single lodge will not have residential units in it, as the currently permitted plans do. The new plans aim to keep the condominium buildings within the village in Phase 1 close to the previously approved Act 250 plans and the Ramshead subdivision remains the same.
Sadfie and PWP got together and created a new village design “that is elegant in its simplicity, and addresses each of the issues I’ve talked about,” said Sneyd, “But there’s still the same five condominium buildings with 193 units, we’re not asking for anything more than what’s already approved in the development for condos, retail centers and square footage for the lodge.”
When asked if Great Gulf was worried about opening the project back up to Act 250 scrutiny, public backlash, and possibly long delays, Sneyd said: “We take the 75% voter approval of the tax increment financing as a good indication of public support for the project,” adding that some past critics of the development are now supporters.
“Additionally, I think our process of being transparent with the public and the press, including our presentation with the resort Oct. 19, and the positive relationship that resort has with the community, all bodes well for us. We’re really trying to be a good partner in the community, to listen, and try to minimize or eliminate any opposition to the project.”
“We could have settled for what Act 250 had approved,” he continued. “In fact, I could come in tomorrow with permits to start building, but we looked at it and said we want excellence for this development … and we are going to achieve it for sure.”
World Cup: renderings to be revealed
Great Gulf plans to unveil specific renderings of its newly envisioned village at its booth at the World Cup over Thanksgiving weekend.
“It is going to be a big launch for us,” Sneyd said. “Because we don’t have full approval we’re not going to actually start the sales then, but we’ll have a registration process where people can express their interests and where we can learn more about what it is they particularly are looking for. Is it two bedrooms? One bedroom? Studio? Townhome? Single family home? We’re able to offer them all right now.”
By Victoria Gaither
Great Gulf and Killington Resort presented the town of Killington with a check for $700,000 for workforce housing.
By Polly Mikula
Great Gulf presented new plans for the Killington Village design/layout on Thursdays.