Work on Mayflower Mountain Resort continues through pandemic with aim for 2023 opening
With all the hubbub about growth and development surrounding the Jordanelle Reservoir, the mountains that overlook its western flank seem unmoved. The colors still change from green to red to brown, the streams bubble up from old mines before tumbling downhill and the legacy mining buildings sit quietly, some lying on their sides.
It’s at the base of the mountain where any hint of the future for these hills sits. It’s there that a new 1.2-million-gallon water tank is buried, construction vehicles sit near freshly turned earth and the infrastructure for some of the planned Mayflower Mountain Resort has been laid.
A little over a year ago, developers announced ambitious plans at the site for what they called the first brand-new ski resort to be developed in the United States in 40 years. Sitting on the eastern flank of Deer Valley Resort, Mayflower Mountain Resort was the product of a partnership between New York real estate magnate Gary Barnett and a Utah development agency that was created to solve jurisdictional problems related to military installations and grew large enough to swallow thousands of acres in the Wasatch Back.
Plans called for a half-dozen ski lifts, three hotels, 1,560 residential units and 250,000 square feet of commercial space.
But watchful neighbors peering across the reservoir reported this spring that work had stopped on the project and wondered whether plans for the resort had been shelved amid the pandemic.
At a site visit Monday, developers said that, far from work ceasing on the project, much had been done in the past few months that wasn’t immediately visible, and that the flurry of activity laid the groundwork for the project to go forward.
Brooke Hontz, vice president of development at EX Utah Development, LLC, said the COVID-19 pandemic had knocked the project sideways, like it did many industries, effectively pausing work for a month and shifting its priorities and timeline.
But the project has undergone meaningful administrative transformations and improvements, according to Hontz and Kurt Krieg, senior vice president of development at EX Utah Development, LLC, the Utah-based arm of the Extell Development Company.
For skiers, that means the ski lifts are now estimated to be turning in time for the 2023-2024 ski season. Last year, Krieg said the hope was for the resort to open for skiing for the 2021-2022 season and for the first hotel to open in the spring of 2022.
Now, Krieg said the goal is to start vertical construction of the first hotel in the spring. That is planned to be a 12-story, 615,000-square-foot facility that includes 388 rooms and 55 condos in addition to commercial and conference space.
Krieg said it will be designed to be able to hold large-scale conferences, like trade shows for military groups. It will be big enough for a car or a tank or a boat to be put on display, he said.
Of the 388 rooms, 100 will be set aside for members of the military. It’s those 100 rooms that make up the U.S. Air Force’s morale, welfare and recreation facility. Originally, the Military Installation Development Authority, or MIDA, became involved in the project to build a facility for members of the military to get rest and relaxation near a Utah ski resort. Its charge was to replace a small ski chalet that was knocked down in the early 2000s.
MIDA has been instrumental in the development of the larger resort concept, with Barnett saying the project would not have happened without the financing options MIDA provides.
In late August, MIDA issued $68.5 million in bonds to finance the infrastructure for much of the planned resort. Krieg said that will pay for key infrastructure like water, sewer and roads.
Soon after the funding came through, MIDA approved a consolidated master plan for the area, providing a high-level look at how the resort will be built and uniting other various approvals, some of which dated back to the 1980s. The master plan calls for two distinct base areas, which are separated by a ridgeline. The Mayflower base area is where the conference hotel will be, while the so-called Pioche base area, just to the north, will feature single- and multi-family homes, a boutique hotel and other amenities.
Krieg said that master plan approval moved the project out of the legislative phase of approvals and into the administrative one, a wonky but important distinction that means that future governmental oversight will be limited to how, not whether, aspects of the project can be built.
Governmental oversight has come in strange forms for this project, with MIDA acting as a jurisdiction like a city or town but with a board of directors made up of officials from around the state.
MIDA has land-use authority for much of the project, though the project is in Wasatch County. The resort area has swelled to 6,800 acres, some 10.5 square miles. Standing on a ridgeline with the various planned ski trails cascading down around her, Hontz extended her arm over a nearby hill and pointed west, saying the property extended about 4 miles to Guardsman Pass.
Another meaningful development invisible to the naked eye is the establishment of a Public Improvement District for the resort, which Krieg said has taxing authority, and will take responsibility for certain municipal services like plowing the roads and managing stormwater.
Hontz portrayed the future resort as skier-friendly, and designed chiefly for the skiing experience. She said that homes will not rise above a certain elevation level, contrasting it with the ski-in/ski-out mansions in The Colony, in which skiers at the Canyons Village side of Park City Mountain Resort meander through multi-million dollar homes. Instead, the homes at Mayflower will be lower down and closer to the planned ski village.
The developers have been working with two consulting groups to prepare skier operation programs. SE Group, based in Colorado, designed the resort’s ski trails and is working on resort programming like a ski school, ski patrol, ski rental systems and restaurants.
4240 Architecture, based in Denver, is working on the architectural components, designing the buildings and lodges.
Mayflower Mountain Resort has long been envisioned as the eastern portal to Deer Valley Resort, and last year secured an agreement with Deer Valley that allows users to access terrain there through Mayflower’s infrastructure.
That means that skiers could use the Mayflower base area and take a lift up into Deer Valley’s terrain, skiing there for the day as long as they have a Deer Valley ski pass.
Barnett has said he envisions the two resorts operating together, and Krieg reiterated Monday that would be the ideal arrangement.
But no operating agreement is in place between the two entities, though Krieg said talks continue.
Wasatch County officials have said that, in approving aspects of the resort, they anticipated it would be operated to the same standard as Deer Valley, which has garnered a worldwide reputation for service and amenities.
Correction: This story has been updated to remove an inaccurate estimate of the cost of the first hotel. Developers have estimated that the first phase will incorporate around $1 billion in vertical construction, of which the conference hotel will be about $320 million.
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