After a 20-year long buildout, the Wellington Neighborhood has officially closed on the last new home this month. With 282 homes and over 500 community members making up the neighborhood, one of the first workforce housing developments in the county has created quite the local community from a pile of dirt.
Neighborhood founder David G. O’Neil said that when he came upon the future site for Breckenridge’s Wellington Neighborhood in the 1990s, it was full of 20-foot-tall rock piles leftover from old mining projects.
In 1999, the planning process began when Brynn Grey Partners, the developing company, pitched their idea to the Breckenridge Town Council. As with the workforce housing developments that have come after Wellington, the project was meant to be a public-private partnership between Brynn Grey, the building company Traditional Neighborhood Builders, the town of Breckenridge and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Current Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula was on the planning committee during the process and his father, Sam Mamula, was the mayor at the time. Although this was a new idea, Eric said the concept was embraced by Town Council.
“No council has ever thought anything other than workforce housing is good for the community — it’s the right thing to do for the community,” Eric said. “It was never contentious from the standpoint of the town should put land or fees or money into the development, it was really just contentious about how the development was laid out itself.”
As for the planning level, Eric said the developers had a different philosophy than the planning committee as the developers wanted to incorporate smaller roads to slow down traffic and the greens that now characterize the neighborhood.
“The hardest thing initially was convincing planning that traditional neighborhood building would work in the High Country,” O’Neil said. “The vision was to create a real locals neighborhood with a sense of community in place.”
O’Neil recalled that there was a lot of back and forth in the planning process. When it came time for the final approval of the project, council was split 3-3. As chairman of the planning commission, Eric had the deciding vote that broke the tie, approving the project.
“It’s been a huge success for the town; it’s when the town really started to concentrate and think about workforce housing,” Eric said.
Construction began in October of 1999 and the first house closed in early 2000. The Wellington Neighborhood reserves 80% of the units for locals and 20% of the units for open market. The builders and developers managed to clean up the site and eventually built 282 houses. The small creek on-site was preserved and now flows through the neighborhood.
In 2002, the neighborhood won the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Award for Smart Growth. Based on the most recent census data, approximately 10% of the Breckenridge population lives in the Wellington Neighborhood. Firefighters, Town Council members, local business owners, teachers and many other vital community members reside in the Wellington Neighborhood.
“In my view our legacy is the people that live there and how they’ve transformed the town,” O’Neil said.
Tim Faia was one of the early residents who moved onto Midnight Sun Road in December of 2002 with his young family.
“We were really excited to move in. We were pregnant with our first child and we were given the opportunity to make it work,” Faia said.
Faia said that while there’s been some turnover in the neighborhood with some people living in their homes part time, the neighborhood has remained a “locals” neighborhood. He said his daughter, who is now 10, is thrilled to have neighbors to play with.
“My green hasn’t had as much turnover, but I have noticed it more over the last few years,” said Zachary Green, who has lived in the neighborhood since August of 2008, referring to the open space that clusters of homes encircle. “But there’s quite a few people who have lived there for quite a long time. Some of these folks are able to sell their place for a bit of money now and they want to move out of attainable housing.”
As for the town’s sentiment toward the project, long-term residents remember pure excitement.
“Just the opportunity to have something that locals could actually somewhat afford and also just the idea that locals would be congregated in one area was kind of a new idea at the time,” Helen Cospolich, who moved into the neighborhood in 2005, said.
While families are happy to have the neighborhood as a local’s community, there have been a few hiccups and disagreements along the way.
“We were told at first that we were going to get mailboxes out there and that there was going to be some sort of community building, and that never happened, which was a little disappointing,” Faia said.
The project also had some pushback from environmental groups. Leigh Girvin was formerly the executive director of the Continental Divide Land Trust and campaigned against the building project as she felt the environmental ramifications of the project were too great to justify it. Girvin came around the idea of the neighborhood though, as she is now a resident of the Wellington Neighborhood.
The success of Wellington has led to Brynn Grey developing other workforce housing projects. As the CEO of Brynn Grey, O’Neil feels the neighborhood is a model to not only to his development company, but for other High Country workforce housing projects.
Much of the team that built the Wellington Neighborhood — Brynn Grey, Traditional Neighborhood Builders and Wolff Lyon Architects — worked on a similar project in Frisco, called Peak One Neighborhood. All 69 units weresold-out in 2014, before construction was even complete.
For the first time since 1994, certain home sales of $400,000 and under will soon not need an appraisal after federal regulators approved a proposal to increase the threshold at which residential home sales require an appraisal.
Last November, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reservereleased a proposal that would increase the appraisal requirement from $250,000 to $400,000, meaning that certain home sales of $400,000 and below would no longer require an appraisal.
The agencies deliberated the rule for nearly a year, taking into consideration the more than 560 comments the agencies received about the rule change.
Last month, the FDIC and OCCsignedoffon the rule, but were still waiting on the Fed to approve the rule change as well.
Now, the Fed has also given the rule change its stamp of approval, and with all three agencies signing off, the appraisal rule change will soon go into effect.
After recapping last winter’s epic snow year, powder snow forecaster Joel Gratz pivoted to what he described as “the No. 1 question for this season’s outlook.”
“Ready for this?” the founder ofOpenSnow.comasked the audience at Thursday’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Ski Area COO Breakfast.
“Drumroll please,” Gratz said before the crowd made cutlery clang together atop white tableclothes.
“There will be snow,” Gratz’s next slide read, to a laugh from the assembled crowd.
“Both due to time restrictions and science restrictions that’s the only slide,” Gratz said, “and all I’m going to say.”
“Here’s the deal,” Gratz continued, breaking from his humor. “Last season, no one predicted it. We just wrote an article a couple of weeks ago looking at 10 forecasts for last season nationwide versus what actually happened with snow and temperatures. Nothing was really that close. Maybe a seasonal forecast was right in one region, but wrong in a lot of regions. There was no consistency in any one organization or forecast model getting a forecast right for a winter — a three-month season — year-in and year-out consistently.
“It’s just not there.”
Rather than freaking out over long-range predictions, Gratz educated COO Breakfast attendees about what to pay attention to when chasing powder. Gratz said last year was so good not because of the volume of snow, but rather the consistency of the precipitation.
“We can go weeks and weeks and weeks without snow,” Gratz said. “That’s normal. It can happen. But it didn’t happen last year, which is awesome.”
In terms of what to pay attention to in specific forecasts, Gratz discouraged powder hounds from paying attention to most anything longer than 14 days out. Eight to 10 days out, Gratz said to give credence to the general temperature and weather pattern outlooks. Six to seven days out, Gratz said that’s when it begins to crystallize for him that a storm is coming. Then, three to five days out, Gratz says he dials in specific storm details.
Gratz also said there is no correlation between early-season snowfall and the rest of the season.
As for the most important variable to big powder days, Gratz zeroed in on wind direction.
“You want to be on the slopes that the wind is blowing the snow to, where it’s depositing,” Gratz said. “And that varies across every different run at every different mountain. So, partially, there is some work involved. You look at Google Maps. You zoom around, and you look up on the hill and you start thinking through this a little bit and, like most things, if you love this — love powder and love to find the best powder — you’ll do a little extra work.”
For Summit County, he said east, south and southwest winds aren’t ideal, as mountain ranges block ideal airflow needed for precipitation in those situations. In terms of ideal wind directions, northwest wind is ideal for Loveland Ski Area, Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort, while west winds are ideal for Keystone Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland.
“If you get the wind direction right with the forecast,” Gratz said, “you’ll be in the ballpark of the best powder two-thirds of the time.”
Gratz clarified that wind direction isn’t the only variable, as moisture and energy are crucial to not get skunked. Following his presentation, Gratz said hard work on the part of individual powder chasers is also crucial to skiing the best pow. Rather than waking up and just looking for the biggest snow report, Gratz said to spend time researching what has happened at spots over the last few days, namely what its surface has been looking like.
“Every day is a little bit different,” Gratz said. “I try to challenge people to think, not just follow somebody else.”
Breckenridge Ski Resort is putting a new hotel and social club at the base of Peak 9 to replace The Village Hotel, which wassold to Gravity Haus in April for $6.25 million. The new hotel will be the first Gravity Haus location, which will be a ski-in, ski-out hotel that is geared towards outdoor-enthusiasts.
Gravity Haus was created by Denver-based entrepreneur Jim Deters and will feature social events and trips. The hotel will be managed by Vail Resorts and will be a complete remodel of the old Village Hotel. There will be 60 rooms within walking distance of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s QuickSilver SuperChair and Breckenridge’s Main Street.
“Our founder Jim Deters, he had raised his family in Breckenridge as their second home so they fell in love with Breck and wanted to do something that really speaks to his experience and passions and brings in the Breck community as well,” said Elyse Kent, spokeswoman for Gravity Haus.
The company is prioritizing eco-conscious amenities with Newly Blankets, which are made from 49% recycled water bottles, Monarch Cypress Robes, which are made from 100% recycled water bottles and coffee from Unravel Coffee which is sourced directly from Ethiopian farmers and roasted in a zero-emissions roaster.
Those interested in becoming Gravity Haus members can join the social club for a yearly fee. Membership includes equipment storage, First Tracks access — allowing guests ski before the general public — and invitations to social events, among other perks. Membership fees are $249 annually to be an Open Haus member, $1,200 to $1,600 annually to be a Breck Haus member and $3,800 annually for a family package.
“We have a breakdown of about 12 different types of trips that are available to Gravity Haus members. With the Go with a Pro series, we’re going to be hosting regional trips and experiences with Summit County-based athletes,” said Kent.
Kent explained that events involve both winter and summer sports. The Go with a Pro series pairs members with professionals for clinics, workshops and activities like on-mountain skiing and cycling. The series is in partnership with Colorado brands like Icelandic Skis, Never Summer Snowboards, K2 Skis and the Faction Collective. Activities are also family-friendly and Kent mentioned a unique clinic for teenage girls that will help build confidence on the mountain.
Gravity Haus will also be hosting opportunities to get into the field with nonprofit organizations like Protect Our Winters and the National Forest Foundation. The on-site restaurant, Cabin Juice, is in collaboration with Denver restaurateur Bryan Dayton and will host community style, meet-the-farmer dinners and chef’s table cooking demonstrations.
Gravity Haus plans to open at Breckenridge Ski Resort this December.
On Saturday, the Summit County Builders Association kicked off its first weekend of the 25th annual Summit County Parade of Homes. The event puts 11 homes on display in Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Keystone, Copper Mountain and Dillon as a fundraiser for The Summit Foundation.
Taryn Power, director of events and marketing at The Summit Foundation, explained that the homes, most of which are not for sale, showcase the new architectural feats of local builders.
Donato Lipari, president of the Summit County Association of Builders, said builders and homeowners were asked to enter houses that were completed in the past 18 months.
One home on display in Keystone and is a modern style mountain home with views of Keystone Resort. The entertainment focused home has 3,500 square feet of deck and patio space, and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.
There are two homes on display in Dillon. One is meant to embrace the surrounding natural elements with large windows on all sides of the home, and the other features an earthy exterior of sebastian stone to blend with the surroundings.
A home on display in Silverthorne features a central outdoor space, and one in Copper Mountain and has a barn-style appearance with timber wood framing and a two-story stone fireplace.
There are six homes on display in Breckenridge. One is situated alongside the Breckenridge Golf Course and features an underground wine cellar, a raised-bed vegetable garden and integrated technology, including an oxygenation system. Another home boasts a collection of views of the Tenmile Range, Buffalo Mountain, the Breckenridge Golf Course and the golf course lake.
A Breckenridge home coined “mod-dustrial” by the owners has contemporary and industrial elements, another has a traditional mountain-house exterior with an open kitchen and dining area, one features an elaborate log-cabin exterior, and the last home highlights the rustic-style remodel.
Power said there was a good turnout for the event this past weekend with about 500 to 600 people participating Saturday and about 400 people Sunday.
Last year, the event raised $42,000 for The Summit Foundation. Power said the money raised goes toward grants and scholarships that are given to students and families in the community.
“Every year, our goal is to better than (the year before). All signs would indicate that it will be a similar or better year than last year,” Lipari said about donations.
Tickets are $20 and can be used for any or all days of the event. Tickets can be purchased atSummitCountyBuilders.org/paradeofhomes, at the local City Market, Coldwell Banker, Mountain Comfort Furnishings and Alpine Bank or at one of the three ticket selling homes during the parade weekends:
31 Arapahoe Trail in Keystone
572 Beeler Place at Copper Mountain
515 S. French Street in Breckenridge
The event continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, and Sunday, Sept. 29. Tours of the homes are self-guided.
While Monday may be the official first day of fall, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area reminded us that ski season is just around the corner by turning on their snowmaking machines Sunday morning. The ski area noted on their Twitter feed that though this is just testing for now, snow was made nevertheless. Temperatures dropped below 28 degrees, creating ideal snowmaking conditions in the basin.
Alan Henceroth, COO of Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort, wrote onhis blogSunday that while A-Basin didn’t make a ton of snow, getting the machines up and running is an important first step in the snow making process.
“We like to test the gear and work out any kinks,” wrote Henceroth. “These actions are important to help us be ready when the really cold temperatures come.”
Snowmaking among the high-elevation Summit County ski areas has been teased all month as A-Basin, Keystone Resort and nearby Loveland Ski Area race for this season’s first-open title.
A-Basin poised its snow guns on the hill inearly September. With snowmaking commencing in late September, the ski area seems to be on-target with the goal of a mid-October opening.
While Keystone’s snow guns are on the hill andready to go on the main snowmaking areas, they have yet to be turned on. This is likely due solely to weather on the hill, as Keystone’s new snow guns have individual weather systems that automatically turn the machines on when the weather permits.
On its Twitter feed, Loveland Ski Area announced testing of its snow guns on Sept. 17 and designated Sept. 29 as the official snowmaking start date.