Condo market extends downtown, to residents

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About three years ago, developer and Realtor Herald Stout noticed a trend developing: more people were choosing to buy low-maintenance townhomes and condominiums over single-family homes.

"I've seen a great deal of people who have said they want more time in their life," Stout said. "And they are willing to trade off a yard for not having to deal with the maintenance of it."

Stout said he took this into consideration in the construction of his new development, Park Place, at the site of the old Routt Memorial Hospital on Broad Street.

The development will have a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and a six-unit condominium building. Stout expects its location near Soda Creek Elementary to appeal to families.

Although condos have always been popular in resort towns such as Steamboat Springs because of their appeal as low-maintenance vacation properties, condos have long lagged behind single-family home sales volume in the national market. In recent years, however, they have taken a turn for the better.

But the popularity of condos is stretching beyond tourist destinations, appealing to more permanent residents, often in urban areas, across the United States.

Nationwide, the median price for condos topped that of single-family homes -- $174,700 to $171,600 -- for the first time in 2003, according to the National Association of Realtors. Also, sales volume is growing more rapidly than that of single-family homes, according to the NAR.

In Steamboat Springs, condo construction -- once exclusive to the resort-based east end of town -- is spreading into the more year-round residential Old Town area.

"A lot of it is about location," said Realtor Coleman Cook of Colorado Group Realty. "For people that want to walk to work or restaurants or just be in the heart of downtown, (condos) are very appealing."

One such condo development in Steamboat Springs is The Residences of Old Town, a 24-unit, high-end condominium remodel of a building that housed 60 hotel rooms of the Harbor Hotel.

Jim Shumaker, a partner with the Downtown Condominium Group in Fort Collins, bought the building and did not know what to do with it at first.

"We saw the urban condo environment becoming a popular thing, and when we looked at Steamboat Springs, we saw there wasn't much of that downtown," Shumaker said. "It's all on the mountain. The more we looked at it, we thought this would be a great opportunity to bring condos downtown.

"The city has wanted to develop the Yampa corridor, so the city's reception was great, as well as the reception from the market."

Almost all of the units at The Residences of Old Town are sold, and construction is not complete.

Shumaker said he has seen similar demand for condos in downtown Fort Collins.

"Even small houses are expensive," Shumaker said. "And often times people, especially baby boomers and empty nesters, are looking to condos because they are nice and they are affordable."

The $2 million renovation of the 25,000-square-foot Residences of Old Town building is on schedule to be complete next month.

Another condo project has been planned for groundbreaking in May just a few blocks from The Residences of Old Town, at 11th and Yampa streets.

The project is an 18,000-square-foot building with nine to 11 residential units and more than 5,000 square feet of street-level commercial space. The building also will house three to four employee-designated residential units over four two-car garages. Parking areas and sidewalks with plants along Yampa and 11th streets also will be included.

City Planner Jonathan Spence said he believes these condos and they residences it will bring will help overall improve its area in downtown and spur other development.

"The more people we have living downtown, the better chance we have of maintaining a vibrant downtown," Spence said.

Almost 898,000 existing condos sold in the United States last year, up almost 10 percent from 2002, according to a report from the NAR. Resales have helped the number of condo transactions nearly match annual single-family home sales.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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