In the first step toward funding a planned affordable housing project, town council approved the transfer of land to the Breckenridge Housing Authority in a first reading on Tuesday. The proposed project, known as Denison Placer, would bring 66 income-restricted rental units across from Colorado Mountain College.
With the June 1 due date for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) approaching quickly, Breckenridge town planner Laurie Best said staff would request council make the ordinance effective immediately after the second reading.
“We want to leave it as a two-reading process,” she said. “We will transfer ownership of the LIHTC property from the town of Breckenridge to the housing authority.”
With LIHTC projects, if there is an ownership interest by a housing authority, then the project is a much more competitive candidate for the tax credit. The town is currently pursuing 9-percent tax credits to cover $12 to $13 million of project costs.
The Breckenridge Housing Authority was formed to satisfy tax credit financing requirements for the Pinewood II, another income-restricted apartment rental that received LIHTC funding.
“It (LIHTC funding) will come in very useful for this project. We will be more competitive if the parcel is owned by a nonprofit.”Peter GrosshueschCommunity Development director
“It will come in very useful for this project,” Community Development director Peter Grosshuesch said. “We will be more competitive if the parcel is owned by a nonprofit.”
The 5.5-acre segment is split into two phases, both of which will include income-restricted housing. The first parcel, of about one acre and 30 units, will break ground this summer. Groundwork will also start on the other parcel, though the larger site will begin after the town hears back in regards to LIHTC funding.
“One will be subject to tax credit rules for occupancy, and the other one we’ll set ourselves,” he said.
The Denison Placer subdivision will include two- and three-bedroom apartments, with Area Median Income (AMI) restrictions set at 40 to 60 percent. The project is a segment of Breckenridge’s Block 11 Master Plan, a 254-acre site north of Upper Blue Elementary that is meant to host a neighborhood of 180 to 350 units adjacent to the McCain Property. The plan, which was developed in 2007, will see a few tweaks, but Grosshuesch said the street plan and architecture would be consistent with the Block 11 Master Plan.
Grosshuesch said when work begins this summer, that parcel of land will be prepared with grading and utility work.
Summit County is in the process of settling a deal to finalize residential development on a piece of property in Keystone more than 20 years in the making.
Summit’s Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing this past Tuesday, April 26 to listen to local developer Tim Crane of Summit Homes Construction — owner of two notable land parcels in Keystone — on changing the zoning regulations for the area. The Keystone PUD — as it’s known, or permitted uses and development — dates back to its adoption in 1995, when it put restrictions on how properties for the unincorporated county land could be built out.
At that time, the parcel in question, known as Brown’s Cabin, was owned by Keystone/Intrawest LLC, and this development partnership agreed to zoning that would allow it to only construct up to 100 units of workforce housing, a child-care center, an information center and a parking lot on the land where a gondola would have also been built. But, as it stands, the 4.35 acres at Brown’s Cabin remains a vacant lot.
This is where it gets complicated.
Keystone/Intrawest LLC dissolved in late-2003, and the property was sold to Tom Petters, CEO of the Minnesota-based investment firm Petters Group Worldwide. In 2008, Petters was charged with and subsequently found guilty of business fraud stemming from a Ponzi scheme estimated at more than $3 billion. Today, he sits in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas where he’ll be serving his sentence for another 40-plus years.
Minnwest Bank Metro, which loaned Petters the money to buy Brown’s Cabin in 2007 (and, in 2006, also loaned him $9.1 million for an adjacent Keystone property called The Alders), re-acquired the property and resold it to another bank. A developer calling itself Magni Keystone LLC was then under contract for the purchase of Brown’s Cabin for $1.3 million — the same price Petters originally paid — contingent on obtaining a rezone within the Keystone PUD from the county to build 56 market-rate units there. When the county did not consent to change the 100 workforce housing restriction, Magni sued the county in March 2015. For more on that, check out this explainer.
In the interim, along comes Crane, who owns a number of other LLCs in the county and then buys Brown’s Cabin from that second bank for $1.05 million in April 2015, therefore dismissing Magni’s lawsuit. Crane, under yet another LLC, purchased The Alders from Minnwest — a company he had a development relationship with and was already developing town homes at that site starting in 2012 — for $5.85 million in September 2015. And, today in meetings, Commissioner Thomas Davidson regularly quips his thanks to Crane for not suing the county.
Crane continues to develop at The Alders. At present, 14 town homes have been built, with another four in the works on the 15.87-acre parcel originally zoned under the Keystone PUD for up to 303 market-rate units and 7,800-square-feet of commercial space.
Now, according to the PUD, as any developer builds homes in Keystone, they kick into effect a workforce-housing requirement, which has a generation rate of a fraction of a unit per home produced. Crane has no intention of building 303 homes, but rather a much lower density of just 89 total (so 75 total more to go) at The Alders. Because that property is not zoned for workforce housing, he’ll have to fulfill that requirement on other land.
Enter Brown’s Cabin.
His goal is to build 33 market-rate homes there — but the PUD only provides for workforce housing, of which he also has to build because of the construction at The Alders. So Crane has come to the county, initially doing so in November, to help amend the PUD and request this upzone.
The county, in its own interests and facing a continued workforce housing crisis, does not want to lose the opportunity at those potential units on Brown’s, although it does not own that land. The parties, in turn, have come together to find a way all involved can locate middle ground.
At the Tuesday meeting, Crane pointed out that times have changed, and the PUD as it’s written, particularly at Brown’s Cabin, “no longer reflects the current market demands or development trends.” And, as the builder of myriad developments throughout Summit County — including Pinewood Village 2 in Breckenridge and of the recently announced 15 deed-restricted, workforce homes at Copper Mountain Resort called Copper Point Townhomes — he has some knowledge on the subject.
As part of the possible agreement with the county on Brown’s, Crane would first build six, two-bedroom town homes at an area median income (AMI) rate to be determined, but from the county’s hope a reasonable price so it remains affordable, at that parcel. Crane said Tuesday he’d sweeten the pot further.
Those hypothetical workforce properties that would no longer be built at Brown’s would then go into a “density bank” that would be donated to the county and of a valuation to be determined — think of them as credits that can be spent later on — to be spread out elsewhere. So, he’s also agreed to the initial framework of an “open-book project,” fronting all the cost on a piece of county-owned property at Dillon Valley (or other location), to build as many as 19 units — 38 total beds — of workforce housing, potentially at a loss.
Critics may argue that the county losing out on as many as 100 workforce units — what would undoubtedly have to be dorm-style living to fit that many places to live on that amount of space — at Brown’s, per the PUD, is a tough pill to swallow. Davidson, as well as Commissioners Dan Gibbs and Karn Stiegelmeier made just this argument to Crane back in November, but the chance at some real properties at all — a total of 50 beds and built sooner than later — is a significant reward meriting the agreement. Following earlier and unanimous Snake River Planning Commissioner concurrence, the Board of County Commissioners intimated this at Tuesday’s meeting, but are not at this time able to comment further because the parameters have yet to be ironed out and a deal struck.
Don Reimer, the director of the Summit County Planning Department and one of the leader staffers who does such research, however, is not under such constraints,and agrees with the logic.
“Getting six town homes with a total of 12 beds and a definite commitment to build at least 19 more units, another 38 beds — a definite commitment,” he said, “there’s a lot of value in getting that. The county is certainly benefiting to get some housing built now.”
Brown’s Cabin has taken two decades. That’s included umpteen interruptions, a lawsuit and land changing hands a number of times, but it seems the county is just weeks away from finally moving forward with workforce housing at a location in Keystone where these countless pitfalls have before prevented it from coming to fruition.
While shoulder season brings a welcome respite from the hordes of skier traffic, a group of experts is seeking solutions for Breckenridge’s perennial parking woes. After an initial meeting in February, strategists with Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates and DTJ Design polled Breckenridge residents on their parking and transit priorities.
Both of Monday’s meetings brought a strong turnout, with attendees drawing up unexpected conclusions about the best course of action. For example, the majority of Breckenridge residents would prioritize walking, biking and public transit over vehicle traffic to reduce congestion. Surprisingly, they also supported the conversion of free lots to paid parking.
“I think it was just a reflection of an invested community. It was kind of refreshing to have that conversation,” DTJ Design president Bill Campie said. “It’s a little bit daunting to start and say, ‘How are we going to improve what we consider the model?’”
The group pared down the process to three major goals: creating a better guest experience, reducing traffic congestion (especially on Park Avenue) and increasing access to downtown businesses.
“We’ve decided Park is really the linchpin,” he added. “As soon as you can’t access Park, everything else starts to fall apart.”
According to an informal survey from Monday’s meeting, about 80 percent of Breckenridge residents would prioritize biking, walking and transit improvements over traffic.
“We had charts and charts of specific comments,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, principal and director of Strategy for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates. “The interesting pattern to me is that they were very specific and very detailed, and there’s a recognition that the one giant project isn’t the thing the town should invest its resources in.”
For Park Avenue, he suggested bringing in a series of tight roundabouts that would slow down traffic enough to make it easier for pedestrians to cross.
Campie added that although there are crosswalks on Park Avenue, they are so often buried in snow that they do little to slow traffic or encourage pedestrians to cross.
“Right now, the problem with Park is either traffic is at a dead stop or going 30-35 mph,” Tumlin said. “We want to make the traffic steady but slow.”
Another innovative idea was to extend the current gondola to parking lots further outside of town, near Colorado Mountain College, for example, giving pedestrians an alternative means of transportation without clogging the streets downtown.
“They’re really great people movers,” Campie said, adding that stops near the Rec Center and other hubs might be a possibility.
“You can quickly get people into the heart of town and right up to the top of the mountain,” Tumlin added. “It’s surprisingly being used in a lot of places because of the flexibility of the system.”
LESS LOTS, MORE WALKS
Over the past few months of discussions, plans have moved away from creating a large parking structure in Breckenridge’s F-Lot and moved toward managing demand before expanding the town’s parking capacity.
“A lot of folks realizing that managing demand was a prerequisite before adding supply,” Tumlin said. “Folks were super interested in more parking at the edges of town and not so much at the center of town. People were interested in affordable housing and open space in the center of town.”
While building a large lot might seem like a simple solution, Tumlin explained that it was not only more expensive, but also a net increase in parking spaces downtown will lead to more traffic and, therefore, more congestion.
“People don’t like parking in parking structures, and they will avoid it if they possibly can,” he said. “They are always going to go to the most convenient space.”
According to him, it all circles back to the question at the heart of the issue: If the question is where to put parking downtown, “the answer is absolutely F-Lot,” Tumlin said.
However, if the question is how to best address congestion, improve downtown access and quality of life, the answer becomes a bit more complicated.
“Then the answer is not, I think, the parking structure on F-Lot, but rather spending that money in a more sophisticated and a more balanced way,” he said. “You shouldn’t just do one thing. You need to do a whole package of things that works together.”
Overwhelmingly, poll results supported constructing a parking structure outside of the town core. Tumlin pointed to the town’s solution with Ski Hill Road as an example of success, by moving the parking lots off the hill and connecting to the ski resort with a gondola.
“You can apply in a somewhat more complex matter that exact same package of solutions to address the traffic congestion problem on Park and Main,” he said.
When it came to finding a solution that would support both locals and tourists, Tumlin was relatively optimistic.
“You don’t have to pit them against each other. You can create a solution that benefits everyone,” he said. “I don’t think you have to make that choice, and that is an extraordinary advantage.”
After 16 years of craft beer weekends in Vail, the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival on Tuesday announced the 2017 event would move from its seven-year home at the Vail Cascade to Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center in Breckenridge.
“Vail Cascade was purchased by new owners in December, and the new ownership is investing $35 million-plus dollars in a full remodel and rebranding of the resort,” said Big Beers event coordinator Laura Lodge. “The rebranding will put both the lodging and the conference space out of reach for our event financially.”
An exhaustive search of alternate locations to host the event was completed at the end of March, determining Breckenridge as the optimal place to relocate based upon a variety of factors, Lodge said.
“I think the enthusiasm and support that was offered both by Beaver Run and the Breckenridge Tourism Office, paired with the operational feasibility of relocating the entire event in a way that’s consistent with our previous experiences, was what sealed the deal,” Lodge said.
CONDUCTING THE SEARCH
Knowing that the festival would need to find a new home, organizers launched the search immediately following this year’s event, beginning with a survey that was sent out to all 2016 Big Beers participants in January asking what they were willing to see change in order to continue the festival.
“We very definitely considered the feedback we were given from that post-event survey in considering what was important to transition,” Lodge said. “If nobody would have come if we couldn’t have it in Vail, that would have been the end of Big Beers. The feedback from the survey was ‘where you go, we will follow,’ which was awesome.”
Step 1 was determining what the Big Beers brand had become throughout the past 16 years, narrowing down the individual elements that defined the festival weekend and deciding what would carry forward.
“Some of the components that became evident in that process were the Rocky Mountain skiing destination, a host resort that encompasses a large percentage of the events for the weekend and the capacity to continue with both the educational seminars and Commercial Tasting as key elements of the weekend,” Lodge said.
The first goal was to stay in Vail, and Lodge said she worked with the town of Vail’s Commission on Special Events, Vail Resorts and many different hotels and resorts, both in Vail and Lionshead villages, attempting to find a good fit. Ultimately, the cost of event space and lodging rates eliminated Vail as an option.
“The room rates within Vail and Lionshead were not accessible for the demographics of our group,” Lodge said. “Effectively, we couldn’t find anything in Vail less than $500 a night for a location that would work as a host resort.”
Lodge then looked at Beaver Creek as the next potential option to keep Big Beers in the Vail Valley, but attempts to keep the festival local struck out.
LANDING IN SUMMIT
Broadening the search, destinations such as Steamboat Springs and Aspen were eliminated because the long distance from Denver International Airport would make Big Beers inaccessible for many of the brewers and beer fans that travel from other states to attend. With Winter Park off the list due to a lack of conference space, Big Beers organizers landed on Summit County as the most logical choice.
Lodge said the Keystone Conference Center wouldn’t provide as consolidated of an experience for the festival, requiring shuttles to move amongst the lodging, conference and ski areas, and Copper Mountain Resort proved not to be financially workable. The final nail in both coffins: Neither Keystone nor Copper was able to offer the January weekend calendar dates traditionally occupied by Big Beers.
Breckenridge proved to be attractive, not only because of the support from Beaver Run and the Breckenridge Tourism Office, but also due to the town’s 275-plus shops, bars and restaurants and the recently renovated downtown Arts District. Collectively, these businesses and venues offered a variety of ways to integrate peripheral festival events, such as pairing dinners and tap takeovers, within the Breckenridge community.
“We have over 100 different breweries and importers that want to have a marketing and promoting presence during Big Beers, and the sheer volume of retail, liquor stores, bars and restaurants has already lent itself well to that,” Lodge said. “Keystone and Copper have significantly smaller opportunities to activate within the community, which would have been problematic for the sheer number of breweries that want to do something.”
The 17th annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival will land at Beaver Run Jan. 5-7, 2017. Organizers will soon launch a new website and revisit the weekend schedule to incorporate new activation options within the town of Breckenridge.
“We really appreciate the amazing support that we have been given in Vail and look forward to creating a new chapter of Big Beers working with the locals and business owners in Breck,” Lodge said.
Drew Fontana has one piece of advice for anyone tempted to walk out on Lake Dillon right now: don’t do it.
“It’s hard to give solid advice on ice because you can’t really say it’s ever safe,” said Fontana, captain of the all-volunteer Summit County Water Rescue Team. “With the warming temperatures there will be variable conditions, and right now, the best thing to do is just stay off the ice.”
Simple enough — but not always simple to follow in the moment. The team hasn’t performed a local ice rescue in several years, Fontana said, but across Colorado, at least a handful of people are pulled safely from frozen water every spring. Most rescues are set off by another activity: fishing, playing fetch with the dog, or simply walking along an unreliable shoreline.
Right now, the shore ice on Lake Dillon is already thawing enough to reveal the frigid water beneath. The temperature is hovering right around freezing, about 33 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and so no one should tempt a quick dip, even Fido.
“A lot of times a dog will go on the ice and fall through, then someone will go and try to rescue the dog,” Fontana said.
But, again, that’s easier said than done. About 10 to 15 feet out from the shore the ice is beginning to turn cloudy, a process known as “candlesticking.” When this happens, the ice is compromised and more likely to fracture in large chunks, Fontana said. It’s a natural occurrence caused by daily freeze-thaw in springtime, and even though the snow might look or even feel strong enough, candlesticking means any ice is extremely unreliable from now until the start of swift water season.
“You can tell when the ice is very white and cloudy that it’s starting to go through that (process) and weaken,” Fontana said. “When it’s clear and blue, that’s the stronger stuff, the stronger ice.”
Lake ice is a danger from now until the Dillon ice melt device falls through, but ice at inlets and on rivers has already started to break in full. Does that mean it’s somehow safer?
“The most dangerous ice around right now is on the rivers or anywhere else you have the swift water. You get caught and you can’t get back out.”
But, again, easier said than done. About three weeks ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife released a stock of rainbow trout in Lake Dillon and the fishing out there is superb. Phil Hofer, manager at the Frisco Marina, said he’s already seen plenty of anglers wading through the water at the Tenmile Creek inlet near the marina.
The fishing is very good right now and the fish are hungry,” Hofer said. “Just be careful if you head out, maybe fish with a buddy so you aren’t out there by yourself if you happen to slip.”
The fishing might be good, but getting to the prime fishing holes is another hazard to navigate slowly sand safely. The banks at the inlets for Tenmile, Blue River and Swan River are getting mucky right now, which makes it tougher to spot pockets of uneven ground or hidden pools.
This also means certain holes are easier to reach early in the morning, only to become unstable as the ice begins to warm. If you get stuck on fractured ice, or end up at a fishing hole cut off from the shore, Fontana suggests getting to your hands and knees to spread weight across the ice. If it still fractures, get even lower and crawl to safety.
“Stay calm, let people know where you are and be smart,” Fontana said.
HIGH FLOWS TO COME
Ice is only the beginning. Thanks to heavy snowfall this winter, Fontana expects swift water season to be high and heavy. People are already rafting on sections of the Upper Colorado River and Lower Blue River, and the high-water season will likely stretch from now until late July.
“It’s going to be a big season with big flows,” said Fontana, who said flows below Lake Dillon are always affected by water levels and thirsty Front Rangers. “It (flow) is dependent on the level of the lake. When the lake is full, the rivers are going to be flowing pretty good.”
The county hosted a two-hour open house this past Thursday, April 21 in order to obtain public comment on how they believe the recently acquired, approximately 45-acre workforce-housing site should be developed. The goal is to take ideas and opinions from local stakeholders in order to ensure the property is fashioned to best suit the needs of the growing community.
“It’s very important that this project have excellent and abundant public input,” said county manager Gary Martinez. “We hope to be completely interactive and open on this process, and I am confident that we will end up with a very good product.”
Primarily, feedback on Thursday ranged from questions about how parking will function on the future housing site with million-dollar views of popular Greys and Torreys peaks, potential traffic issues that could broaden along Dillon Dam Road and the income limits associated with these future homes of various sizes and purposes. Many emphasized the need for storage space for outdoor gear, inquired about access to both existing trails, green spaces and area transit and requested rules that allow for dogs and other pets, including the idea of staying unincorporated to offer the potential for chickens and bees.
No word on the final number of participants on Thursday, but the main room of the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco was full for the bulk of the comment period, with attendees even showing up a half hour early to offer their perspectives. Hors d’oeuvres for 100 were provided, and one of the on-site staff described it as “the social event of the day,” with likely as many as twice that number coming through by close.
“People want to live where there are communities. So we want to do this one right.”Gary Martinezcounty manager
Regardless of what decisions are eventually decided upon down the road, most involved in the process recognize the importance of smart development as the amount of space for such building throughout the county shrinks by the year, and the demand only continues to intensify. In essence, decision-makers understand that everyone will have to collaborate on this unique opportunity in order to produce the biggest bang for the buck.
“The needs are so large in the county,” said Martinez, in terms of housing. “We really need to challenge ourselves to make this the best we can possibly have, to maximize the value of going past that critical point (of density). Yet, we don’t want to pack so much on that it becomes an unpleasant environment. But, let’s get the public’s input, let’s get a good plan together.”
DOLLARS AND A DREAM
The acquisition of the Lake Hill parcel has been something of a longtime, but unattainable dream. Discussions on the land, located between the Dam Road and Interstate 70, are at least a decade old, and there had been previously unsuccessful attempts by the county and town of Frisco to procure the property from the White River National Forest.
Even though some of the surrounding area had already been developed with utilities and major roadways because the U.S. Forest Service owned it, purchasing Lake Hill from the feds was anything but straightforward. A new approach became possible, however, after the passage of the Forest Service Facility Realignment and Enhancement Act of 2005.
That law authorized the forest service to sell or exchange land in order to buy, build or improve national forest facilities — a special allowance provided with increasing budget cuts at the federal level. Then in June 2013, Colorado legislators got to work on introducing a bill that would enable the White River to specifically sell Lake Hill to Summit County but required passage in the U.S. Congress and the president’s signature to finally move forward.
The bill passed both the U.S. House and Senate with unanimous consent and the Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act arrived to Pres. Obama’s desk in the summer of 2014. He added his inscription on July 25, 2013, and the parameters for finally making this dream a reality were in place.
The property was expected to cost the county upwards of $2.5 million, but an internal forest service appraisal valued it at $1.75 million this past December. That made the county doubly the benefactor of once and for all consummating the agreement that provided this money to the White River National Forest to purchase the Dillon Ranger Station from Silverthorne where the district already makes its home.
All of which brings the county and its inquiring residents up to the present and now deciding how it they should together construct the next major housing for local workers.
County planners, many of who were on hand at the open house on Thursday, have already conducted a good deal of study on Lake Hill — from elevation assessments to topography — and will soon examine soil samples. This site inventory and analysis, combined with a few chances for the public to offer feedback, are viewed as the initial step of the master plan schedule. Combining all of those facets will lead to a conceptual master plan that will be available by the end of July, followed by the release of a final master plan with conceptual designs by the end of September.
The final master plan will offer all stakeholders and interested parties everything from the civil engineers plans, final cost estimates and a summary of the housing programs and financing options. Everyone is eager for those key data points to be available, but there’s still five months of work ahead before those details are settled.
“We don’t have those numbers yet,” said Martinez. “Those are all formulas and equations and concepts that we are going to be working really hard on over the next three, four, five months. We obviously know there is a huge amount of expenses associated with this project, not the least of which would be the infrastructure extensions to and within the site.”
From there, the county will have to figure out how to pay for the actual construction after necessary utilities such as electricity, water and sewer lines are all extended to the property. The county hired Corum Real Estate Group in March to lead all of these efforts, and the company will also be looking into working with builders, so the county won’t necessarily have to front all of the cash to erect this almost certainly phased housing development.
The numbers that the county is closing in on, though, are the number of homes that will go on the site. The county initially targeted the space for producing between 250 and 350 units, but it could actually be as many as 400. That may seem like a lot, but, on a property of 45 acres, it would make for fewer than 10 units per acre.
In comparison, according to county senior planner Don Reimer, nearby neighborhoods such as the Villas at Prospect Point (90 condos on 8.3 acres), the Lake Forest Estates (72 condos on 4.7 acres) and the Bay Club at Frisco (32 condos on 2.3 acres), that’s an even more generous amount of space per unit than any of these other prior housing development. The major difference is, of course, that the Lake Hill property is so much larger than any of these previous sites. And plausibly, it’s the last chance for the county to build on such a substantial expanse in the surrounding area.
“It could be a one-off,” said Martinez. “There might be some additional land adjacent to this site. That’s a possibility, but boy, I don’t know of any other parcels around the county at this point that are located the way this one is. This is so perfectly suited.”
Following the master-plan process, the county will look to further partner with the town of Frisco to begin rezoning and subdividing the property. The build out would then start on the infrastructure as early as 2017, following by potential for construction on the first set of units in 2018, all based on the financing and phasing recommendations.
Until then, there will be other comment periods for members of the public. But once more, the chance at building a community redefining housing project such as Lake Hill is so rare — even with the early talk that there may just be some more land nearby for similar designs — that the county wants to look back years from now and know it did it correctly.
“Remember,” said Martinez, “the county’s desire is not to build housing halfway down the Blue (River) or on top of Hoosier Pass. People want to live where there are communities. So we want to do this one right.”
Residents braved the off-and-on rain Sunday afternoon for a groundbreaking celebration for the new Performing Arts Center in Silverthorne. Local performers Angie Janzen, Mike Huberman, the Folklorico Dancers, Kelly Renoux, Nina Waters and Len Rhodes provided entertainment throughout the event. As rain clouds loomed overhead, Lake Dillon Theatre Company (LDTC) Youth performer Mikaela Clark sang the lyrics, “The sun’ll come out, tomorrow,” to chuckles from the crowd. Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler, town council members, LDTC staff and board president Larry Kelly gave speeches before the ceremonial shovels in the ground.
Announced last year, the new Performing Arts Center is a cooperation between the town of Silverthorne and the LDTC created to further catalyze a vibrant downtown Silverthorne through arts and culture offerings. The Center is projected to open in March 2017.
It’s a seller’s market this spring, marked by a few top-dollar home sales in March. Despite a continual low inventory, sales are starting to seep into the market as the warmer months approach.
“You’re starting to see some people who bought in 2008 and are putting their homes back on the market,” said Cody Thomas, of Paffrath and Thomas Real Estate. “The big sales have been trickling.”
Not only did Paffrath and Thomas make March’s highest sale, but the $5.675 million home on Shock Hill is Summit County’s second-largest residential to date (The largest, an $8.2 million house located on Timber Trail, sold back in 2010).
“This is a big sale for the community,” said Thomas, who listed the home with his father and brother. “Once this one went pending, there were a couple of others in that higher price range.”
Dubbed “Le Chatel de Breckenridge,” the 6,800 square-foot home designed by local architect Suzanne Allen Sabo was inspired by castles along the Dordogne River in France, and a mixture of mountain and mid-century modern architecture. As Allen Sabo’s first entry in the Parade of Homes, it won almost every award for its category. “She was a huge part of that home for sure,” Thomas said. “It was an absolutely spectacular home.”
The home features custom light fixtures, chandeliers, and a five-car garage. The showstopper, a custom steel spiral staircase leading to an observatory, was fabricated in Switzerland, brought over by ship and craned in through the ceiling.
“No fabricator in U.S. could make that. …It had a helix in the center instead of a solid hole,” Allen Sabo said. “Beneath that, there was a stairwell inspired by a house where we stayed in France that was all stone. It felt like you were going into an old castle.”
The oversized great room highlighted more modern elements, with large glass panels displaying a view of Peaks 6, 7 and 8, with Cucumber Gulch below.
“If you can imagine, it’s 68 feet of glass,” Allen Sabo said. “We designed it without restraint. It was speculative, our project.”
Allen Guerra Architecture oversaw every aspect of the project, from the larger pieces to the finest details. They handpicked the materials, including reclaimed wood flooring and Brazilian soapstone counters, with modern clean lines meeting the large timbers and thick stone walls found in traditional mountain homes.
“I do 100 percent of my project,” Allen Sabo said. “It’s a lot of work. But then the project is more cohesive.”
Of course, the freedom of a speculative design also allows for some extra creative features. In this case, that entailed hidden rooms built into the paneling and an all-glass wine cellar.
“We had all kinds of fun things in there,” Allen Sabo added.
Her firm worked on the project for about two-and-a-half years, before Ethan Guerra of Avalanche Construction finished construction in 2015. The sale closed on March 8, to Breckenridge Grand Vacations owner and developer Mike Dudick, according to Summit County Assessor’s records.
“It’s about the location,” Thomas said, adding the neighborhood was within walking distance of the gondola.
A RECORD-SETTING YEAR
So far, 2016 has continued to see historic lows for inventory, with property prices climbing to match the trend.
“We’ve never seen inventory at these low levels, ever,” said Jessica Miller, Marketing Coordinator with Breckenridge Associates Real Estate. “When the market was at its low point, a lot of people came in and bought it, and now they’ve come to really enjoy it.”
She added that with Denver’s booming real estate market, Summit County sees a share of the buyer demand as well.
“Basically what we’re saying to everyone, is if you want to sell, this is the time to list,” Miller said. “If you bought it at the low, you can now sell it for a pretty good profit in the high.”
Breckenridge Associates Real Estate statistics show a progressive decrease in active listings countywide from 2011 to 2016, but the number of properties sold is gradually nearing pre-recession levels. Following the trend, Summit County saw significantly fewer active listings this March, with 603 residential listings, compared to March of 2015, with 902 listings.
Countywide, the price per square foot is up, with single-family homes going for an average of $326 per square foot, and condos as high as $398 per square foot.
“There’s a huge buyer demand out there,” she added. “They’re willing to spend 4 hours on I-70 to come up and ski, because that’s what they love to do.”
TOP SALES FOR MARCH
$5,675,000 — Shock Hill Subdivision, single-family home
$5,500,000 — River’s Edge PUD, vacant land
$3,300,000 — Glenwild Subdivision, single-family home
$2,100,000 — Miner’s View Estates, single-family home
$1,925,000 — Last Chance Subdivision, single-family home
For the second year in a row, Breckenridge has ranked No. 4 in an arts vibrancy study released by the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR).
“I think it’s really exciting for not only Breckenridge, but it really reflects our county,” said Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts. “It’s exciting to be recognized for that.”
The Arts Vibrancy Index for 2016 placed the town in the fourth position in the Top 20 vibrant medium and small communities in the U.S., the same ranking received in 2015.
To assess arts vibrancy across the country, the report states that NCAR — out of Southern Methodist University — incorporates four measures under three main rubrics: demand, supply and public support for arts and culture on a per capita basis.
“Demand was gauged by measures of total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, supply as total arts providers and public support as state and federal arts funding,” the report states.
“They look at everything from number of arts organizations to creative workforce and also the big one — public support for the art,” Woulfe said. “That’s a very unique story to Breckenridge, but we are also seeing that over in Silverthorne now. … Certainly Breckenridge has invested significant dollars over the past few years in really wanting to develop itself as a creative destination, and so a report like this supports what that initiative was, but I think it speaks to our greater creative community outside of Breckenridge as well.”
Jackson, Wyoming took the No. 1 spot in the study for medium and small communities with populations under 1,000,000. Glenwood Springs, Colorado was No. 2, with Santa Fe, New Mexico at No. 3. Just below Breckenridge was Edwards, Colorado at five, and Bozeman, Montana took sixth, followed by Missoula, Montana.
“I also take great pride in, you sort of look at the number of Colorado communities that were in the top 10, too, so for selfish reasons, it’s always great to see Breckenridge in there, but I think it’s really impressive what this state is doing,” Woulfe said. “A lot of it is coming from the governor, from the whole Colorado Creative Industries initiative, from the designated arts districts that are happening around the state. I think it’s exciting to be a part of that effort because you really aren’t seeing that anywhere else in the U.S.”
In the large communities category, the top spot was taken by Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (D.C., Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia), followed by Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin (Tennessee), then New York-Jersey City-White Plains (New York, New Jersey), San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco (California) and, in the No. 5 position, is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale (California). Denver-Aurora-Lakewood ranked No. 10.
ART IN THE MOUNTAINS
The NCAR launched this study in 2015, so it’s a relatively new tool for communities to look at, Woulfe said. He noted the amount of mountain communities in the top 10 arts vibrant medium and small communities.
“It says two things,” he said. “It says these mountain communities are very competitive with each other, and all along the town of Breckenridge — when it launched this initiative — had said it was yes, they wanted to make this a richer place for its residents, but it was also used as a way to attract tourism.”
Established in 2014, Breckenridge Creative Arts was developed by Breckenridge as a department to support and promote arts, culture and creative experiences throughout the town. In January 2015, the department was incorporated as a nonprofit independent of the town, creating an umbrella organization to promote the town as a creative destination. Since its inception, Breck Create has worked hard to develop and experiment with new programming, such as concerts at the Riverwalk, outdoor concerts, festivals and workshops in its arts district.
Other nonprofits and programs in town that have been around for years also contribute heavily to the ranking. Major arts organizations noted in the report are Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, Breckenridge Music Festival (BMF), Riverwalk Performing Arts Center, Mountain Top Children’s Museum, Breckenridge Festival of Film (BFF) and National Repertory Orchestra (NRO).
“When you look at the great work of the (Breckenridge) Music Festival or the National Repertory Orchestra or the (Breckenridge) Heritage Alliance, and I’m speaking just Breck, too, I’m not even speaking our neighbors or our partners in neighboring towns; I think the designation of Breckenridge is really a testament to all of us who are moving that forward,” Woulfe said.
The Breckenridge Cultural Coalition is an organization that was created prior to Breck Create in 2013 and is made up of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance (BHA), NRO, BMF, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre and BFF. Barbara Vonderheid, past president of the NRO and its current delegate to the Breckenridge Cultural Coalition, said the group was influential in the town council making arts a priority and having the town recognize it as a separate function and independent organization.
She said this designation by the NCAR would help bring Breckenridge the kind of tourism that is financially supportive of all businesses, including restaurants and shops.
“We all have the same mission,” she said. “I love making … Breckenridge an arts and cultural destination, and I think rather than making it, it’s actually we are just continuing it and growing it.”
Karlie McLaughlin, marketing and patron engagement associate for BMF, said although some don’t realize that nonprofits are members of the business community, organizations like BMF employ local people, purchase goods and services in town and are involved with the marketing and promotion of Breckenridge. The BMF presents more than 65 events on a year-round basis, bringing national acts to Breckenridge, which in turns brings guests in from out of town.
“It’s the tourism that takes place within the town that really bolsters the economy,” she said.
Woulfe praises the town for having recognized arts and culture as a driver of economy and for supporting new arts initiatives. Breckenridge is a unique story, he said, in that the town went from zero to 10 in a short amount of time.
“It takes courage for those outside of my office to recognize that and put the funding forward,” he said.
With many Breckenridge organizations working to help foster the town as a vibrant arts destination, McLaughlin said there are many opportunities in Breckenridge for these outlets to work together to present dynamic programming that includes multiple art forms.
“I see Breckenridge as an internationally-recognized destination for the arts in the future, where the experiences curated by our local nonprofit organizations celebrate our mountain culture and environment,” said Tamara Nuzzaci Park, executive director of BMF. “The BMF can help realize this future by continuing to foster collaborative presentations among local arts nonprofits, building upon our core commitment to diverse programming and designing unique music experiences that can only be found here in Summit.”
Woulfe said they are applying for Creative District Designation with the state this year, which, if accepted, will open up a number of doors in terms of funding and marketing support from Colorado Tourism Office. The town should find out this summer if it has received the designation.
For now, Breck Create will continue to focus on its current track of programs, festivals, concerts and activities on its arts district campus.
“I’m never happy with where we are; we are always pushing it and wanting to do, not necessarily bigger but we want to do better, we want to make it more relevant,” Woulfe said. “We are starting to find that groove, and, over the coming years, it is going to get more focused, more successful, we are going to sharpen the message even more.”