If you’ve driven between the tracks recently, you’ve noticed quite a bit of hustle and bustle. The ReSources food bank recently opened its doors. The Depot thrift store that supports that food bank and the Vail Education Foundation has firmly planted its roots as a new storefront along Colossal Cave road. Paving work has finished, but development continues.

The Vail Unified School District (VUSD) purchased the acreage just West of St. Rita’s church with only one goal – to work with other community organizations to make the area a hub of intersection between the schools and community. What that hub looked like, no one knew until a group of community leaders got together to brainstorm how it could be best put to use. In addition to using the land as a community resource, the community leaders chose three other essential values. They wanted the area to be financially defensible and self-sustaining. They wanted it to honor Vail’s history and inspire Vail’s future. And, they wanted it to be a place of learning and student opportunities. Now, as plans continue to develop, those values are coming to fruition in the form of living quarters for teachers, a co-office space for businesses in Vail, and the preservation of the old Post Office.

VUSD is currently exploring the idea of providing tiny homes for teachers on the original townsite of Vail. The goal is to provide local, affordable housing options, which aren’t currently available to their staff. This need is especially important for new teachers who are also trying to pay off student loan debt. But there’s more to the concept than affordability. “Three guiding values quickly emerged as teachers and staff explored the idea of tiny houses. The first is providing an affordable, local housing option for teachers. The second is a desire to create a sense of community for teachers who now live far from the schools where they work. The third is to provide tiny homes that, while small, have a feeling and look of luxury that is benefitting those who will live in them,” said John Carruth, Assistant Superintendent at the Vail School District.

Master planning for the community of 24 tiny homes is currently underway. Homes will likely be clustered in groups of four, including an area for community gathering and gardening. VUSD is also working closely with the Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce to create a coworking space called Vail Connection @ GVACC. This space will go beyond serving as a traditional office building. Instead, it’ll provide a unique center for businesses to connect, partner, and innovate.

In its first phase, Vail Connection @ GVACC will have four enclosed office spaces, numerous designated desk spaces, open space for collaboration, a breakout room, and a meeting room. There will also be kitchen and business facilities on site. Businesses can rent an office or a designated desk on a monthly basis. Or, for businesses needing a temporary workspace, the Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce will have a daily drop-in option available. Community organizations can rent the meeting room on an as needed basis too.

Finally, the Old Vail Store & Post Office is being rehabilitated and transformed into a welcome center. This center will honor Vail’s history while also serving as the headquarters for Vail Connects Arizona Main Street program. When built, visitors will have a resource for recreational opportunities, attractions, and to gather information about what’s happening in the heart of Vail.

Work is in full swing on these projects. Follow the VUSD, Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce, and Vail Preservation Society Facebook pages for continued updates on what’s to come and how you can get involved.

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Lucretia Free