The Scoundrel

The year is 1991.  The Mayor of Vail, Kent Rose, tells me a story …

He remembers sitting in Bart & Yeti’s in 1973 and a guy named James Murfin comes into the bar. Do I know the name?  “Sure”, I said, “he’s the scoundrel that built the Antlers.” 

That’s right, he and his partner Alan Van Fleet had recently finished building the Antlers during the same four year period (1969-1973) that twenty other buildings in Lionshead had been constructed.  And he was bragging that the two of them were smart enough to build it for far less than all those other developers.  He claimed to have built the Antlers for $12 per square foot.

Twelve dollars a foot?!

Now keep in mind, Kent said, average building costs in those days were in the $25 – $30 a foot range, but $12 does seem a bit ridiculous.

“Well Kent”, I said, “I know that the Antlers HOA sued that crook for the fact that there really wasn’t a functioning roof on the building.  He had reportedly awarded the roofing subcontract to himself and then hired several high school kids to slop some tar around up there and call it good. As the snow melted the very first Spring, the top floor units leaked like a sieve.  Bud Benedict told me that you pretty much needed an umbrella to go inside any of the 7th floor condos.”  The HOA had to pay to actually put a roof on the brand new building.

But that’s just the beginning … despite the building having seven floors, the elevator only had three landings.  What?!  Yep, it stopped at the entry level from the parking lot … between the second and third floors on 2½ … as well as on 4½ and 6½.  EVERYWHERE the elevator stopped you had to go up or down a half flight of stairs to get to ANY condominium.  Why?  Because landings were expensive!

As a sidebar, can you imagine the hassle of moving vacuum cleaners, cleaning supplies, luggage, furniture and everything else, when it always involved negotiating at least a half flight of stairs?

Next … water heaters … every condo in the building (even the large units) had one (1), twenty-gallon hot water heater!  That’s barely enough for a shower.  Immediately, the owners had to each pay to add a second hot water heater in their units.

Laundry room?  A place for housekeepers and their supplies?  A functional lobby?  None of those things existed, despite the operation of the building as a condominium-hotel, with hundreds of guests staying in the 72 condos consistently throughout the winter.  No, each of those would have added construction costs, and Murfin was having none of that.  The list went on and on.

“So Kent,” I said, “I’m here to tell you that we’ve spent the last eighteen years (and as it turned out, the next twenty) fixing all the shortcuts that Murfin and Van Fleet took.  So yes, $12 a foot is totally believable!”

By the way … that lawsuit the HOA filed in 1974 … they won a judgment for a couple hundred thousand dollars.  But then they couldn’t find those guys.  When they finally tracked them down, they were broke.  Later, one of them offered to settle the debt with some “precious gems”.  On behalf of the HOA, Bud had them appraised and they were worth $1,200.  Swell.  Needless to say, the Antlers never got paid.

On one positive note, the building was constructed totally with pre-cast concrete.  That was true for the hideous parking structure as well as the condominium building itself. It was all the same.  In 2000 we tore down that old parking structure as part of the redevelopment.  The demolition company, which had worked on hundreds of other projects, told us it was one of the toughest, strongest structures they ever had to demolish. They called it “bomb-proof”.  So despite $12 a foot, at least the “bones are good”.

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