Posted: February 01, 2010
Who Owns Colorado: ‘Double’ Eagle takes a breather
Mountain town's population increased 95 percent between 2003 and 2007 - but not much latelyBy David Lewis
To understand the recent history of the town of Eagle, Colo., most of what you need to know is contained in two sets of two numbers.
The first is that, in the year 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 3,032 Eagle residents. In mid-2008 it estimated 5,897 people lived there, a 94.5 percent increase.
"We doubled our number of housing units and doubled our population between 2003 and 2007," says town manager and interim town planner William Powell.
The town's master plan was written in 1997 and now is being updated. Meantime, what kind of growth is Eagle anticipating?
Powell laughs. "I don't know. We're doing some utility planning now. When we did our '97 plan we thought our high-growth scenario would be about 5.5 percent per year."
Now, "We were down to just a handful of building permits at the end of 2008 and 2009," Powell says. "It's been a dramatic slowdown. We were a boomtown, but it has dropped off precipitously."
The second set of numbers reflects Eagle's January referendum on the fate of Eagle River Station, a proposed mixed-use development that would have sealed the transformation of the town from a rural outpost to a suburban retail center for Vail, Edwards, Beaver Creek and environs.
Eagle River Station would have been built on 89 acres, and it was to include 572,064 square feet of commercial space around a "lifestyle center," plus a 150-unit suite hotel and 581 multifamily residences. The development was nixed by a margin of 1,175 to 1,109. The developments that preceded the Eagle River Station proposal lived, you might say, so that Eagle River Station might die.
Prior to the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Eagle's growth was remarkable enough to attract the attention of the Christian Science Monitor and "PBS NewsHour," whose series called "Patchwork Nation" paired the town with Riverside, Calif., as an example of a boom-and-bust burg.
Was the PBS/Monitor series fair and accurate?
"No. They interviewed me for probably 30 minutes, and they took probably the one negative comment I made in the whole interview, took the sound bite they wanted that was much more negative than the way I see the markets here," says Doug Seabury, Realtor and partner in Eagle Valley Realty. Then again, Seabury admits he's not overflowing with positivity.
"Don't get me wrong, the market is not fantastic; we are definitely in a down cycle. But (the PBS segment) was definitely a doom-and-gloom portrayal of Eagle, and it's not that bad," Seabury says.
But "we're still at the bottom," Seabury says. "We have hit the bottom, and it's just a matter of how long we're going to be there. We have found that if you price your house, depending on the category of product you have, if you price it at the right point, it will sell.
"The buyers are coming out. Money is available. It all goes back to value right now. It's not about views, it's not about quality of upgrades - granite and stainless steel and all those things that used to matter - right now it's all about value, meaning people are asking, ‘Can I build this house today for this price?' If the answer is ‘no,' they're saying, ‘This is a good deal.' "
In sum, Eagle, the adjacent Eagle Valley and Eagle County as a whole indeed are not doomed, but the real estate market is suffering.
Observers agree home prices are down a minimum of 15 percent to 30 percent from their peak. It's all largely a question of timing, of course. The Bluffs at Eagle, which in 2005-2006 sold lots to builders in maximum units of five, quickly sold out and now is turning some homes over for the second or even the third time. Adam's Rib Ranch, an Eagle Valley project developed by Adam's Mark hotel chain founder Fred Kummer, lies on the other end of the scale. Plans to build 99 homes on its 1,600 acres have slowed to the ceasing point.
Yet there are signs of hope. First, as Seabury notes, "Adam's Rib is a unique situation. The developer/landowner there does not need to sell a single product. He's capable of carrying that forever the way it is."
But he might not have to. The project just sold the first of four spec homes, for $2.75 million.
One of the luxuries we have here, unlike many of the clubs around the country that are struggling, and particularly in residential real estate developments, is everything here is 100 percent paid for," general manager Joe Cranston says. "There's no debt on this property. It's a pretty good situation to be in, given this economy. It gives us the ability to be very patient in our sales effort as well as to demonstrate to people our long-term solvency."
Somewhere in the middle is Eagle Ranch, a 2,000-acre residential-commercial development in the town that started construction in 1998 and now is about half built-out. Eventually the project will include about 1,200 residences.
"I think we're there, at bottom. I'm not sure how fast we'll come off, but company-wise our business is up significantly over a year ago," says Douglas Landin, managing branch broker for the Eagle Ranch office of Slifer Smith & Frampton. "The great thing for buyers is that prices are off 20 percent to 30 percent, so this is a really good time to buy."
EAGLE RANCH DUPLEX
LOCATION: 305 FOUNDERS AVE.
DEVELOPER: RA NELSON
CONTACT: DOUG SEABURY | PHONE: (970) 390-8786
SIZE: 2,200 SQUARE FEET, 2,600 WITH BASEMENT FINISHED
PROJECT TYPE: RESIDENTIAL
GROUNDBREAKING: 2005 | BUILD-OUT: 2005
This Eagle Ranch duplex went on the market for $425,000 in mid-December. "We priced it about where the owners paid for it," says Realtor Doug Seabury. "I never thought we would be back to ‘05 pricing." The duplex is about one mile from downtown Eagle, and within walking distance to the Eagle Ranch Village commercial center. On Brush Creek, it has a fenced yard "rare for a duplex," Seabury says, and upgrades including granite counters, stainless steel kitchen appliances, and hickory hardwood floors.
ADAM'S RIB RANCH
LOCATION: 1094 FROST CREEK DRIVE
DEVELOPER: FRED KUMMER |
CONTACT: JOHN HELMERING | PHONE: (970) 328-2326
SIZE: 1,600 ACRES
PROJECT TYPE: RESIDENTIAL
GROUNDBREAKING: 2005 | BUILD-OUT: UNKNOWN
Adam's Rib Ranch consists of two parcels: An 1,100-acre portion includes its Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, four spec homes, cottages and a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse; the other 500 acres is an equestrian site that at present includes road and corrals, with stables to be built. Eventually the development plan calls for 99 homes to be built on lots from five to 10 acres. The clubhouse includes indoor and outdoor dining, five spa treatment rooms, exercise facilities, a golf shop and more. Homes are four-bedroom, designed in Colorado mountain lodge style.
LOCATION: 1143 CAPITOL ST., EAGLE
DEVELOPER: EAST WEST PARTNERS
CONTACT: DOUG LANDIN, RANCH BROKER | PHONE: (970) 328-2554
SIZE: 2,000 ACRES
PROJECT TYPE: RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL
COMMERCIAL SQUARE FOOTAGE: ABOUT 120,000 SQUARE FEET
GROUNDBREAKING: FALL 1998 | BUILD-OUT: UNKNOWN
More than half open space (including its 7,500-yard golf course) Eagle Ranch, slated to contain 1,200 residences, is about half built out. Designed in New Urbanist style, the development includes more than 10 miles of biking and hiking paths. Entry level is about $300,000 for a three-bedroom condo; townhomes range from the high $300,000s to the mid-$400,000s; patio-style homes cost about $600,000; custom enclave homes start in the high $500,000s up to $700,000; and custom homes range from about $7,000 to $1.7 million.
THE BLUFFS AT EAGLE
LOCATION: THE EASTERN END OF 2ND STREET AT THE BASE OF BELLYACHE ROAD, IN EAGLE
DEVELOPER: KEN SHAPIRO
CONTACT: SCOTT SCHLOSSER | PHONE: (970) 328-9519
SIZE: 120 ACRES
PROJECT TYPE: RESIDENTIAL
GROUNDBREAKING: 2005 | BUILD-OUT: 2006
Timing is all, they say, and The Bluffs at Eagle began in 2005 selling lots as low as $59,000. By the next year lots were selling for $135,000. The development's lots average 6,500 square feet. It comprises 121 residences, including two deed-restricted duplexes. The developer sold to local builders in maximum parcels of five lots.
David Lewis is a freelance writer based in Denver.