Story of the Elevator

By Rob LeVine, Grand Poobah

Antlers at Vail was built in 1972. Times in the construction industry were different then. Often shortcuts were taken. One prime example of that was the Antlers original elevator.  Despite the fact that the building had seven floors, that elevator only had three stops. Really?  Yes, really.  It stopped at the lobby level, between the second and third floors (call it 2½) as well as on 4½ and 6½.  There were literally no condominiums that could be accessed without taking at least a half flight of stairs, up or down.  Why? Because landings are expensive and this was one more way to cut costs in 1972. 

Try to imagine the challenges of people moving all their luggage when they checked in or out.  Everything had to go up or down stairs.  The Antlers had several big dollies available to help people out.  Swell.  You also had to take a flight and a half of stairs from the lobby level to get down to the first floor units, or to go to the pool.  There was of course, a lower parking level (which was another whole issue) that got you to 1½ (where the coin-op laundry is today).  So when guests and owners on the first or second floor arrived or departed, they were no worse off than those in the rest of the building.  They also “only” had to take seven steps up or down to get to or from their car. 

Original Antlers elevator tower.

If you were staying on any of the higher floors, to go to the pool you had to go up or down a half flight of stairs, take the elevator to 2½, and then walk down another fight and a half to get to the first floor and then to the pool (which is another twelve steps down once you get outside).  In hindsight it’s simply amazing that people were willing to put up with all that.

The service levels of the Antlers rental operation back then were minimal, to say the least.  There was no regular bell service, but the front desk staff would (reluctantly) help people with their luggage that needed it.  That was difficult enough, but moving cribs and rollaways was even worse.  And think of the poor housekeepers who had to lug everything up and down steps in big trash bags.  Maid carts were of absolutely no use.

Amazingly, the HOA tolerated these circumstances from 1972 when the building opened, until 1990.  At that time, a concerted effort was made to find a location for a second elevator.  Presuming that it would be prohibitively expensive to go through the old parking structure, three locations were identified on the various ends of the building.  In each case, it would have impacted the view from the units of a handful of owners.  They were having absolutely none of it, and the potential project ground to a halt.

Happily and creatively, someone (whose initials are Rob LeVine), came up with the ingenious idea to put doors on the front AND back of the elevator, then build new landings on each floor, out in the airspace on the west side of the elevator shaft.  It was the construction project of the century. Well, maybe not quite, but it was a pretty big deal.  And that’s how the elevator in its original location came to serve each floor.

Antlers building in 1985.

Talk about an upgrade!  We bought our first maid carts!  Despite the snail’s pace of an older “piston type” design, which now had nine landings in seven floors, everyone was thrilled.  Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, that hydraulic jack type elevator is appropriate for a building with two or three floors … MAYBE four. In order to serve a roughly 70 foot rise, we had to special order a three-stage, telescoping piston to fit in the much shorter well (the hole in the ground that the piston recedes into).  It came from Germany and we were told it was the only one in the United States. Good darn thing. Even when it was new, it had frequent mechanical problems.  Much of that was due to the rather small diameter of the third stage, necessary to fit inside the other two.  It was really too small to be functioning on an elevator of this size. But hey, we finally had maid carts!

Construction in 2019 to add a speedy new elevator to the east side of the building to replace an aging elevator.

Further compounding the challenges of this elevator (both before and after the 1990 renovations), was the fact that the equipment room is located in that walkway between the lower parking level and the center stairwell.  That area is basically outside and untempered.  So the hydraulic oil that drove the piston would get way too cold in the winter.  That would cause it to slow down even more … like WAY more.  A special oil heater, along with a series of space heaters was the band-aid for that, but a weak band-aid it was.  Conversely, with limited air circulation that room would overheat in the summer, causing the elevator to simply say, “No mas.”  A variety of air conditioners were tried and used over the years.  Nothing’s ever simple.

Antlers building post 2019 renovations, with speedy new elevator to the left of the upgraded lobby.

Despite two more, rather expensive “elevator modernization” efforts over the years, the age and design of this old gal (the “lift” to our British friends) has just hit the end of her functional life.  Sadly, the limited size of the shaft is such that a full-on replacement simply cannot meet today’s building code for elevators.  And the structural elements of the building make expanding that shaft impossible.  Trust us, we would love to do it and have looked at every option.

Fortunately, in 2019 the Board of Directors, along with Magdalena and her staff were able to convince the ownership to bite the bullet and construct a new elevator that did in fact penetrate both levels of the parking garage.  The structural engineering and subsequent construction of that was an enormous task.  Suffice to say that it changed the cost of what would normally have been about $300,000 for a new elevator, into about $2.5 million.  Happily, the HOA didn’t stop there, and used the opportunity to also renovate the entire reception area, lobby and all offices.  That took the price to well over $5 million, but given that this old, original elevator is now toast, it was worth every penny.

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