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Telluride: comatose but not dead: smaller houses gain fashion in downturn.

In this state, Telluride vies only with Aspen and maybe Vail when it comes to glamour and glitz: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and now Jerry Seinfeld.

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Oprah.

Need more be said?

Telluride was and is more or less a remote little mountain town in a box canyon with Bridal Veil Falls at one end, noted as seat of San Miguel County, which is still a jurisdiction without a stop light, and for its wild silver mining days and its downtown Telluride Historic District.

To condense Telluride history a bit, there was mining, then came skiing, then came the Telluride Regional Airport, then came glitz and glamour. Without skiing and flying, Telluride might have ended in obscurity, which in real estate terms means something less than the $1,300 per-square-foot and up stratosphere the town heretofore has sometimes occupied.

To keep the glitz and glamour going, the town of 2,221 (2000 U.S. Census) hosts: the Telluride Film Festival, Mountain Film Festival, Telluride Jazz Celebration, Balloon Rally, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride Wine Festival, Fireman's Fourth of July Celebration, Telluride Tech Festival, Telluride Festival of the Arts, Mushroom Festival and Telluride Blues & Brews Festival.

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And that's just the summer festivals.

That's why the Olympic Penthouse, a $5.9 million condo for sale downtown, was designed with an 800-square-foot roof deck so tony cocktail partygoers can hear the music and see the fireworks, and also designed with high-end sound suppression windows, so partygoers don't have to see and hear the fireworks and music.

Great idea, but is the party over?

Olympic Penthouse had been on the market about five months at this writing. "Because it hasn't sold, is still sitting on the market and no one has made an offer, you can argue that our market is not supporting" the condo's price tag, said broker Corey Chandler. "It is a one-of-a-kind piece, so that we feel that we can price aggressively, but we are not in denial; we recognize that we are in a full-blown recession."

Is the town's real estate market, like its mega-resort cousins, wasting away in the doldrums?

Or is it worse than that? Telluride is "lethargic," says town of Telluride director of planning and building Chris Hawkins. "Comatose."

And that's the good news, because "comatose," let us not forget, is still not "dead." Out of about 170 homes on the market as of this writing, about two dozen could be classed as distress sales, said Chris Sommers, real estate broker with Telluride Real Estate Corp. That means they are being offered for 20 percent to 40 percent off comparable listings.

That does not mean these homes are selling, Sommers added, "But there are certainly sales going on, and value seekers in the market."

Another symptom of the slowdown, he said, is that even the most affluent buyers are adding debt to what a year or two ago might have been a cash purchase. This is both because interest rates are low and because of an understandable desire, even among the mega-rich, to preserve capital.

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George Harvey Jr. has been a Telluride Realtor for 25 years and he is the president of the Colorado Association of Realtors, so when he says he has never seen anything like this market, that's saying something.

"This has never happened before in our lifetimes," Harvey said. "In past recessions, every one of them, our clients flew above the storm," Even the nasty crash of the 1980s caused merely a "six-month lull," Harvey says, while he predicts Colorado resort real estate activity this time won't recover for another five years.

Telluride real estate sales fell 46 percent in 2008 from 2007, with sales volume of $343.3 million, down 55 percent. This year, the Telluride real estate market is down as much as 20 percent, Harvey said, with other state resorts slumping by 8 percent to 15 percent. (Meantime, Harvey reported, the ranks of the Telluride Realtors Association thinned 20 percent year-to-year.)

"I really thought the market was going to slow down and predicted that," he said. "I did not know that by October 2008 we were going to have what I call 'the end of civilization' fear. You knew it was slowing down all year. What you did not know was that there was a cliff out there that all of these people started going over." But people don't last in the real estate business by dwelling on the everlasting negative. "2010 will see an uptick, " Harvey predicts.

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Harvey and planning director Hawkins bring up the same amazing trend. "You're going to see smaller houses, houses that are more energy-efficient," he said. "We've been talking about this for 20 or more years, but we're finally going to get it."

Meanwhile the planning office is actually "seeing people ask for less square footage" in their applications," Hawkins says.

One of these is a project on the drawing board of Ray Messier, president of Telluride-based R.A. Messier Construction. Messier had planned previously a triplex of about 5,200 square feet on a 2,800-square-foot lot. Then he amended his submission to the town to about 3,000 square feet.

To Messier this re-filing represents "a shift in philosophy. We are entering a period of development where the concept of maximizing every property and getting as much square footage as you can as the driving philosophy has reached its limit. The concept of 'more is better' is over, it's outdated. It's been proven 'more' doesn't equate to happiness."

Telluride Bluegrass Festival returns June 18 to 21

Over its 35-year history, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has stretched the boundaries of bluegrass by booking bands you might not associate with banjos, mandolins and fiddles. But when rock acts make the trek to the mountain town they catch the bluegrass bug.

This year, Elvis Costello will be employing an all-star bluegrass band when he and the Sugarcanes perform at the 36th annual four-day festival. The new supergroup Works Progress Administration features members of Nickel Creek, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Heartbreakers and the Imposters. Inspired collaborations have long been a Telluride legend.

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Of course, festival mainstays will be on hand, including the Telluride House Band, featuring bluegrass mavericks Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton and Luke Bulla. They'll be welcoming such returning stars as Emmylou Harris and Tim O'Brien and introducing former Talking Heads leader David Byrne to the Telluride stage for the first time.

Tickets for the festival are available at www.shop.bluegrass.com or 800-624-2422.

--Mike Cote

RELATED ARTICLE

1] OLYMPIC PENTHOUSE

LOCATION: 150B WEST COLORADO AVE., TELLURIDE

DEVELOPER: SAM AND MARILYN SIEGEL

PHONE: (970) 728-3086

SIZE: 4,291 SQUARE FEET

PROJECT TYPE: RESIDENTIAL CONDOMINIUM

GROUNDBREAKING: SEPTEMBER 2007

BUILD-OUT: MARCH 2009

Sam and Marilyn Siegel, longtime owners of Telluride Olympic Sports, built this three-story, four-bedroom, 4.5-bath penthouse with a wall in common with the store, making it a condo. They also made it with 800 square feet of roof deck, master bedroom and master guest suites, a private two-car heated garage, and sweeping views of the Telluride Valley. Features include central AC and humidification, and sound-suppression windows in all bedrooms. Asking price: $5.975 militon. "It is priced aggressively given the current climate, but a lot of sellers have the staying power to hold on," said Corie Chandler, broker associate with Sally Puff Courtney-Peaks Real Estate in Telluride.

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2] CASCABEL FLY FISHING RETREAT

LOCATION: 35 MINUTES WEST OF TELLURIDE

DEVELOPER: N/A

PHONE: (970)728-1603

SIZE: 318 ACRES

PROJECT TYPE: FLY FISHINGAA/ILDERNESS RETREAT

GROUNDBREAKING: PURCHASED IN 1986

BUILD-OUT: UNKNOWN, BUT THE PROPERTY HAS NINE POTENTIAL 35-ACRE UNITS

Cascabel includes three miles of the San Miguel River, 2,500 feet in elevation lower than Telluride; two custom-designed and built private homes, one with 16 rooms; a day lodge with a commercial kitchen; a spa pavilion with a pool; a hot tub and a treatment room; four guest cabins; a caretaker's cabin; and two ponds. Asking price: $24.5 million.

3] WILSON PEAK RANCH_

LOCATION: 30 MINUTES SOUTHWEST OF TELLURIDE_

PHONE: (970) 369- 369-5373

SIZE: 329 ACRES

Wilson Peak Ranch's 329 acres are part of more than 1,400 acres of ranchland and amenities to be commonly managed by two families. Amenities include clay pigeon shooting facilities; a 32,000-square-foot timber frame equestrian barn with 21 stalis; a veterinary facility; a lounge, apartment and gym; a trout pond and a secluded log guesthouse; seven miles of hiking and snowmobiling trails; one-quarter mile of Fall Creek fishing stream and national forest access. Asking price: $16 million.

4] 132 FALL CREEK ROAD

LOCATION: PLACERVILLE

PHONE: (970) 369- 369-5373

BUILD-OUT: 2007

SIZE: 7.11 ACRES

Modern, square-cut, hand-hewn log home, 3,609 square feet with three bedrooms, 3.5 baths, three lofts, three-car garage, two wood-burning fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, deck with outdoor hot tub overlooking Fall Creek bordering Bureau of Land Management property; includes turn-of-the-century outbuildings; large irrigated yard and corral; 2000 John Deere tractor with attachments, 2005 John Deere riding lawn mower, two 1990-1991 snowmobiles with trailer, and a 1999 Jeep Wrangler. Asking price: $2.55 million.

5] DEPOT PUD, 405 DEPOT AVE.

LOCATION: 405 DEPOT AVE., TELLURIDE

DEVELOPER: R.A. MESSIER CONSTRUCTION, TELLURIDE

PHONE: (920) 728-5774

SIZE: 2,800-SQUARE-FOOT LOT

PROJECT TYPE: RESIDENTIAL

GROUNDBREAKING: JULY OR AUGUST 2009

BUILD-OUT: NINE MONTHS THEREAFTER

Messier plans to build a triplex in the Depot PUD, a residential planned unit development so-called because it is near the historie Telluride Railroad Depot. The builder's design includes a two-story structure plus basement comprising three units: a 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment; a 1,100-square-foot apartment; and a 400-square-foot studio. Messier said he might move into the larger unit and rent the other two.
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Title Annotation:WHO OWNS COLORADO
Comment:Telluride: comatose but not dead: smaller houses gain fashion in downturn.(WHO OWNS COLORADO)
Author:Lewis, David
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:1630
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