Steamboat Springs Scott Martin says he and his family decided a year ago they wanted to move to Steamboat. New development on the west side of the city could provide them that opportunity.
"It's a chance to have a business and a home in the same community, and to be able to do that without taking out multiple mortgages and overextending myself" said Martin, who lives in San Clemente, Calif., with his wife and three young children.
Martin is hopeful affordable homes will be built in Steamboat West by the new controllers of 700 acres of developable land that has been identified as the growth corridor for Steamboat. Martin said he and his wife want to move here because there are good schools for their children, they like the atmosphere of a small town and they want to open a business.
"For us, it seems like an awesome opportunity," Martin said Friday. "I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens with all this."
'A tremendous opportunity'
There are other families such as the Martins who want to live in Steamboat, and the development of potentially between 1,100 and 2,600 homes makes moving here a possibility.
"It's going to present a tremendous amount of opportunity for people who are dying to get into this market but can't," said Pam Vanatta of Prudential Steamboat Realty. "We know the demand is there."
Vanatta and Chad Fleischer facilitated the recent $24.6 million sale of 540 acres that used to be owned by Steve Brown and Mary Brown to Danny Mulcahy and his partners, who want to develop the property in line with the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan, a master plan for the area.
"There is a gap in the community right now with housing," said Mulcahy, adding that initial planning and market analysis currently is being done for the new development.
It likely will be at least two years before the first homes are built, he said. Attainable homes would be a key component of the first phase of the development, in which 20-percent affordable housing is mandated.
The city has some leverage when it comes to how Mulcahy can develop the property. The land currently is outside city limits, and the city would have to approve development plans to annex the land into the city.
The addition of between 1,100 and 2,600 homes during the next one or two decades will have a large impact on city services, which currently serve about 7,000 residences in Steamboat. Traffic also will have to be addressed.
"It will have a huge impact on our way of life," said city councilman Loui Antonucci, who also is a Steamboat realtor with Old Town Realty. "They have to put a plan together. They have to come to the city."
Growth badly needed
There also is the question of what effect the additional new homes will have on the Steamboat real estate market in the short and long term, and how long it will take for new homes to be purchased.
Wells Fargo banker Wade Gebhard thinks it is about time development occurred west of Steamboat.
"It would have been nice if it happened five years ago, but better late than never," Gebhard said.
The greatest restraints for an ongoing robust economy in Steamboat are the labor pool and the availability of housing on all levels - rental, affordable and market rate - Gebhard said.
"It's all levels of labor from entry level all the way to executive," he said.
Steamboat West could go a long way in addressing both a labor shortage and lack of housing that can be obtained by the people working in Steamboat, Gebhard said.
Impact of new inventory
Skyrocketing home prices have been the result of a limited supply and high demand.
"Year after year, we continue to have less real estate for sale," said Doug Labor, broker owner of Buyer's Resource Real Estate.
Labor also is the statistician for the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.
Homes in Steamboat West should take pressure off the rest of the market, Labor said, but what that will do to prices and appreciation rates is the million-dollar question. His research, however, shows demand will continue to be strong for the Steamboat market.
"Demand will stay strong and prices will continue to go up in Steamboat, but this will help produce opportunities," Labor said. "It might slow down the rapid rates of appreciation we have seen in the entry-level housing."
It is difficult to predict how much of an effect it will have, not knowing the prices, Labor said. Market demand will always be higher in town and with properties located closer to the Steamboat Ski Area.
"If anyone had a choice, they would want to be right in town," Labor said.
Mulcahy said he believes the demand for the housing market in Steamboat will "keep going nuts," but "prices will stabilize in the market."
Once the land is annexed, Mulcahy predicts activity could cool from speculators and people buying property purely for an investment.
With new inventory within city limits, Labor said, there could be an effect in the Stagecoach and Hayden markets. It also could impact the property in the subdivisions that currently exist on the west side of town, such as the Silver Spur subdivision, where Mountain Valley Bank banker Mike Larson lives. Silver Spur is directly west of the property Mulcahy plans to develop.
"Everybody worries that a new large subdivision of houses will decrease the value of their home, but I don't think that will happen," Larson said. "I think it enhances the viability of Steamboat."
Lots in Silver Spur and the Heritage Park subdivision sold out quickly originally, and demand likely has only gotten stronger.
"The success we've seen with those two projects will probably be compounded because the market has gotten so much stronger," Labor said.
The success of Steamboat West hinges on the developers designing it correctly, and there likely would be some amenities that will benefit those already living in west Steamboat, Larson said.
"If they put a good mix of housing in, it will benefit west Steamboat," he said.
He expects the trail system will be expanded, and he hopes there will be ample open space.
"I would like to see a couple ball fields devoted to local kids," Larson said.
Colorado Group Realty broker owner Joy Rasmussen said city planners, city officials and the developer have a tough road ahead of them, but filling in the west side should be beneficial for the entire city.
"We are going to be a more attractive place that will draw people in," Rasmussen said.
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