Construction crews at Trailhead Lodge continue working on outdoor amenities, such as stone slabs for the community barbecues, while furniture is moved into the condominiums.

Photo by Tom Ross

Construction crews at Trailhead Lodge continue working on outdoor amenities, such as stone slabs for the community barbecues, while furniture is moved into the condominiums.

Developers at Trailhead Lodge aim for opening in late May

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— Thursday was moving day at Trailhead Lodge, a process likely to continue into May. With unit contract closings expected soon and two mortgage lenders in place to assist qualified buyers, the developers of the large condominium project near the base of Steamboat Ski Area are optimistic about the future.

Mariana Ishida, development director for Resort Ventures West, said the first furniture truck was expected to arrive at midday Thursday to begin unloading custom-built chairs and sofas into the development's parking garage. The management staff from Steamboat Resorts could formally assume its role by April 15, and if everything goes well with the final stage of the city process, the residential building adjacent to the Meadows skier parking lot could open to the public in late May.

"We achieved substantial completion of the buildings on Sunday," Ishida said. "The fire department has signed off on it."

Tile work is under way on the indoor amenities, and there remains significant construction to be completed on the outdoor amenities, including a network of grotto-style hot pools.

But the custom furniture for the condominiums began to arrive this week. Beyer-Brown and Associates, a firm from Vancouver, B.C., has had oversight of the furnishings throughout the construction process, Ishida said. The Beyer-Brown staff already knows where everything must go, from end tables to TVs.

"It's a pretty intense three-week process," Ishida said.

After the furniture is in place, a second specialized firm will stock the condominiums with everything from silverware to toasters.

Trailhead Lodge is a $71 million condominium project that broke ground in summer 2007. The five-story building comprises 184,000 square feet. A July 2007 sales event saw 62 of 86 condominiums go under hard contracts with an aggregate value of $56 million.

The developers expect the sales to begin closing soon. Resort Ventures West Principal and Chief Financial Officer Brent Pearson said this week that the only sales he's aware of that may not close on schedule involve two buyers who have developed life-changing health issues.

Pearson confirmed his company has been able to arrange for two mortgage lenders who are prepared to work with qualified Trailhead buyers.

Countrywide Financial, a subsidiary of Trailhead construction lender Bank of America, and CalCon Mutual Mortgage of California, are offering 75 to 80 percent financing for qualified buyers. Bank of America has an obvious incentive to see the condominiums sell, Pearson said. CalCon, with offices in Jackson, Wyo., and Park City, Utah, has developed a specialty in resort lending.

Trailhead buyers, who already have committed 20 percent of the purchase price to Resort Ventures West, may apply that amount to the required down payment on the permanent mortgage, Pearson said.

Interest rates will vary daily and with the circumstances of individual borrowers, Pearson said, but the rates he has seen offered range from 5.5 to 5.75 percent, about three-quarters of a point over the prime mortgage rate. The premium is attributable to the fact that the loans are typically jumbo loans.

Buyers need not go through either of the lenders. They will include cash buyers, those who have arranged other financing and those who use assets to leverage their purchase.

Pearson said representatives of Bank of America visited Steamboat to evaluate Trailhead and the local market before arranging the financing. He said he takes it as a measure of their confidence in the project and the local market.

Financing extended on land

Pearson said he and his partners in the remaining undeveloped land at the overall Wildhorse Meadows project, of which Trailhead is a part, have extended their financing on the land for another three years.

The new First Tracks affordable housing project (also virtually complete) and the single-family lots in The Range, which are sold out, are not part of the new financing.

"We were able to get long-term financing," Pearson said. "It's a development accomplishment, and it speaks well for both the project and the market here that banks will refinance anything right now. It sends a very strong statement about Steamboat."

The members of the partnership include Pearson, Resort Ventures West Principal and President David Hill, Principal and Chairman Whitney Ward and a fourth anonymous member.

The development intends to use the next two years to pursue city permits on the balance of the project, which tentatively includes another large condominium building and townhomes.

"Three years from now, the development plans for all of the parcels should be complete," Pearson said. Optimistically, those projects could be built in another 2 1/2 years, Pearson said. If the Steamboat real estate market still is in the doldrums beyond that point, it will "be a bad sign for Steamboat," he added.

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