Steamboat Springs Reports this summer of new development projects being hatched have been as scarce as a slalom race in July.
But the developers of Wildhorse Meadows said this week that they intend to enter the city of Steamboat Springs planning process in the fall to seek a permit for a new housing project envisioned to meet resort homebuyers’ desires in a post-recessionary economy.
“It doesn’t have a name yet, but our next project would be more along the lines of Wildhorse cottages,” Brent Pearson said Thursday.
Pearson is chief financial officer and among the principals at Resort Ventures West, the owners representative of Wildhorse Land Co. The land company is the overarching development partnership for the multiple phases of Wildhorse Meadows, including Trailhead Lodge, The Range single-family lots and First Tracks condominiums.
The site is off Pine Grove Road, down a hillside from Steamboat Ski Area gondola. It is linked to the ski base by a privately owned, public gondola. The developers are approved for 700,000 square feet of building, they said. The next phase could comprise as much as 60,000 square feet of homes smaller than originally envisioned. The developers said that’s where they expect the demand to be in several years.
One other major development has entered the city approval process ahead of Wildhorse this summer. Pearl Living and Yampa Valley Medical Center are hoping to move dirt this year on a new residential campus for senior citizens, while Casey’s Pond LLC is testing the waters for a companion development of condominiums for independent seniors.
The new proposal would be built where Wildhorse Land initially envisioned 3,500-square-foot, lot-line-to-lot-line single-family homes, Pearson said. But the new project would offer downsized homes in keeping with what the developers predict the mindset of second-homebuyers to be when they consider purchasing property again in mountain resorts.
“We won’t give people more than they need,” Pearson said. “We’ll give them just what they need. If it’s a garage (for example), it’s only a one-car garage.”
Working through the city permit process is one thing, pulling the trigger on a construction project is another, and Pearson was quick to say no decision has been made to actually build the new cottage-scale homes.
“We’ll be watching what the economy does, but we expect to see some stability returning to the market within the next two years. Delivery (of completed homes) would be between two and three years away,” he said.
The Wildhorse partnership wants to be prepared to move on an appropriate project should demand return, Pearson said.
The idea that the Wildhorse developers would move forward with a new project while millions of dollars in luxury condominiums at Trailhead Lodge remain unsold might seem improbable.
Pearson said the overall development is structured to make that possible.
The partners in Wildhorse Meadows Land sold the land for the condominium building to Trailhead Lodge LLC, and they own the amenities on the site (which will be available to the entire Wildhorse community as it develops), Pearson said. And Wildhorse Land is not encumbered by the debt on Trailhead.
“The land company is very stable, very solid,” Pearson said. “There is no debt on the partners.”
Resort Ventures West Director of Sales and Marketing Kerry Shea said the structure of Wildhorse Meadows is what allows it the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions as it plans for the future.
Trailhead Lodge reported after a July 2007 pre-sales event that it had 63 of 86 condominiums under hard contract for an aggregate $56 million. But fewer than half of those contracts have closed. Shea said that as of this week, Trailhead has closed 30 condominiums.
“That market has not yet returned,” Pearson acknowledged Thursday.
Tentatively, the developers plan to build a model home representing the new phase at Wildhorse and work toward additional homes on contract.
City Planner Seth Lorson said this week that because Wildhorse Meadows is a large, master-planned community, he and his colleagues are in regular contact with Resort Ventures West.
The planning process the developers went through for the overall Wildhorse project approved land uses and permissible densities in the different phases. However, Lorson said it would be premature to react to Resort Ventures West’s tentative new project.
“We’re happy to work with them, and we want them to succeed,” he said.
Wildhorse would occupy all of 44 acres of land purchased from Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.
Wildhorse is within the Urban Renewal Authority boundary at the base of the ski area, and consequently new development there could be expected to contribute property taxes to the improvements of public facilities under way at the ski base.