2030 Olympic bid for Denver would require major land, housing commitments for mountain towns

Deepan Dutta ddutta@summitdaily.com


Groomed trails for cross-country skiers at the Frisco Nordic Center Thursday, March 1, in Frisco. The Summit Combined Housing Authority discussed the infrastructure needs for bringing the Olympics to the mountains in 2030, including 30-50 acres of flat land for an Olympic village, using existing infrastructure and building new venues.

Bringing the Olympics to the Rockies may be a tall order for Summit and neighboring mountain communities — 12 to 15 stories tall, to be more exact.

The Denver Olympic Exploratory Committee recently met with Summit housing officials and set out the needs for an Olympic village for athletes, coaches and staff in the mountains. Summit Combined Housing Authority executive director Jason Dietz presented the Olympic village requirements to local town and county officials at the authority's regular meeting on Wednesday.

"The site will need to be 35 to 50 acres of 'flat' land," Dietz announced, and was met with a smattering of chuckles from around the table. Finding a contiguous, flat parcel of land is a steep ask in the mountains. A current property listing on LandWatch.com has one 26-acre flat parcel in Breckenridge selling at $1.75 million.

Dietz added that any such site purchase and infrastructure development would need to be privately or publicly funded, as the Olympics would only pay to rent space while the games are being hosted.


“We want to see what legacy makes the best sense for Denver and the mountain towns.”Ramonna RobinsonSpokesperson for Denver Olympic Exploratory Committee


For a 35-acre site, Dietz said, housing would need to be dense and cover a smaller footprint in order to accommodate the 2,000 rooms needed to house all the athletes. That would necessitate the construction of a 12- to 15-story residential tower in the middle of a village complex. For a 50-acre site, the building would be 2- to 4-stories tall on a much larger footprint. The villages would also need new infrastructure such as roads, plumbing and electricity.

Summit County manager Scott Vargo said that the county is not at all thrilled about the first proposal. "I don't think a huge tower block would be appropriate for our community," Vargo said, adding that the shorter 50-acre complex seems more feasible, though finding appropriate flat land remains a daunting challenge.

Vargo also said that aside from housing, three new sports venues will need to be built in Denver and the mountains for Nordic skiing (the Nordic centers in Frisco and Breckenridge do not meet Olympic specs), the ski jump and a sliding track for the luge/bobsled.

Ramonna Robinson, spokesperson for the Denver Olympic Exploratory Committee, said that the housing requirement is necessitated by International Olympic Committee requirements. "The IOC requires enough housing for 5,500 beds for the athletes, coaches and staff," she said. She added that the committee is looking at the possibility of building separate villages in Denver, Summit and Eagle to spread out the residential need.

Robinson sees lasting benefits to bringing the Olympics to Colorado. She said that the villages and other infrastructure development could become permanent improvements and address some critical needs in mountain communities.

"There are a lot of infrastructure and capital improvements that aren't being funded in Colorado," Robinson said. "We really believe that the Olympics can be a catalyst to attract much-needed federal funds and help with major issues in the mountains, such as workforce housing and expanding and improving I-70. It could be a benefit for everybody."

Robinson said the exploratory committee is listening to as many local voices as they can to see what solution best fits their communities.

"We want to see what legacy makes the best sense for Denver and the mountain towns," she said, adding that affordable housing could be one such legacy.

The exploratory committee has met with officials from mountain towns including Breckenridge, Frisco, Georgetown, Vail and Winter Park. The committee is also encouraging public input through an online survey that closes at midnight Saturday. The survey can be accessed through the exploratory committee's website, SharingTheGold.org.



Average price of a single-family home in metro Denver passes half-million dollar mark


Higher mortgage rates fail to keep home prices in check

Home price gains in metro Denver are rising at a double-digit pace this year after taking a breather in 2017, pushing the average price of a single-family home sold in February above $500,000 for the first time, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.

“We have never been above $500,000,” said Steve Danyliw, chairman of the DMAR market trends committee and a Denver Realtor. “It is a psychological barrier, especially for some of our younger buyers.”

The average price of a single-family home sold in metro Denver reached $502,986 in February, up 2.5 percent from January and 11.8 percent from February 2017.

By contrast, the income gains needed to support higher prices are running just under 3 percent in Colorado.

There were a few signs in the latest numbers, however, that the increases may not continue at such a blistering pace. Inventory has inched up as more new listings arrived and sales slowed, in part because of rising mortgage interest rates.

Average rates on a 30-year mortgage have moved from 3.9 percent at the start of the year to 4.43 percent as of March 1, according to a weekly survey from Freddie Mac.

A 0.5 percentage point move in mortgage rates adds $117 a month to the price of a $500,000 home with 20 percent down, Danyilw said. If rates go up a full percentage point, closer to 5 percent, then a buyer would be paying $237 a month more.

That rapid move in rates, however, didn’t dampen home price increases, probably because many buyers had locked in lower rates, something lenders will offer for 30 to 90 days out.

If those buyers don’t find a property before the rate lock expires, they will be pushed back into a market charging around 4.5 percent. In that regard, the housing market could be heating up before it cools down.

The inventory and sales numbers would seem to support that view. But a counter argument is that so few affordable homes are available, desperate buyers will keep pushing the market higher until they reach the point of financial exhaustion.

“Everyone is afraid if they don’t buy something now, next year it will be worse. That could be causing it, the sense that we need to buy now,” said Heather Dos Santos, a broker with Kidder Plus Real Estate who works in the northern metro market.

Dos Santos said she visited a home that listed in Westminster on Saturday for $259,000, a hard-to-find bargain nowadays. Although there was no formal open house, a steady stream of agents and buyers moved in and out on Saturday.

“It got out of control. Everybody had the lock box code. People were coming and going,” she said.

Her client, an investor, noticed costly foundation problems and passed. But by Monday, after about 45 viewings, a buyer had the home under contract.

The number of single-family homes available to buy at the end of February rose 6.8 percent from January to 3,015, while the inventory of condos for sale rose 2.3 percent to 1,069, according to the counts from DMAR.

Those increases reflect more new listings and a drop in sales. Sellers listed 4,638 homes in February, an increase of 10.9 percent from January. Normally, February sees a 6.8 percent jump in new listings from the prior month.

“These new listings may be ‘fence-sitters’ jumping in as concerns of increasing interest rates mount,” Danyliw said.


Summit’s most expensive house in January tops $3 million


A luxury home at 53 Boulder Ridge Drive in Breckenridge is shown here on Wednesday. The house sold last month for $3.17 million, making it Summit County’s most expensive real estate transaction in January.

Eli Pace

The New Year picked up where 2017 left off with historically low inventory continuing to drive up prices and push down the average time a home spends on the market in Summit County.

Offering his advice, Jeff Moore, vice president of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, said local sellers should refrain from "overshooting the market," even though it's a great time to sell a property.

At the same time, he hopes buyers aren't being scared away because Summit's real estate remains "a great investment."

"For whatever reason, the first quarter over the last three years has proven to be a very strong quarter for sure," Moore said of January's numbers, explaining that what's typically been the slowest time of the year for housing sales in Summit County has certainly picked up compared to previous years.

“Summit County is still an absolute value when it comes to mountain properties in resort markets. ... It’s a piece of paradise that everyone wants.”Jeff MooreVP of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate

According to the most recent figures provided by the company, the total volume of residential real estate transactions ($79 million), the number of land transactions (22), the average sale price ($750,772) and the average price per square foot ($449) all hit their highest levels for a January in Summit County since at least 2009.

Because the housing market fluctuates dramatically from one season to the next, especially in Colorado's High Country, it's best to look at the same months in different years to get keep tabs on what's happening locally.

Furthermore, the average number of days a home spent on the market was down 39 percent last month at 47 days, which is less than one-quarter what it was between 2011-2014, when the average home spent more than 200 days on the market.

"Of course, what drives the market is supply and demand," Moore said, echoing previous statements from other industry experts. "It's economics 101, and that's exactly what Summit is experiencing at this time."

With 23 years of experience selling real estate in Summit, Moore said the 313 residential properties and 162 vacant land properties currently up for sale put the inventory at a 10-year low.

January’s most expensive house, a luxury home at 53 Boulder Ridge Drive in Breckenridge, went for $3.17 million, but Moore’s been seeing homes priced under $700,000 — whether they're single-family residences, townhomes or duplexes — come off the market quick.

"Buyers in the market place have less to select from, and you're seeing that bear out," he said, noting that the inventory for homes under $700,000 is "very, very low" at only 131 properties.

That can make finding the right house tough for a buyer, Moore cautioned. However, he thinks people looking to purchase should realize that owning a home in Summit County remains a strong investment, both financially and from a standpoint of personal enjoyment.

Also, baby boomers continue to play a major role in the real estate market here, Moore said. But he's also noticing the emergence of Generation X, as individuals age 37 to 49 are starting to buy up second homes with the intent that, perhaps down the road, they could become retirement properties.

"That's what's being born out of all that Denver growth," he said. "There's just remarkable wealth coming out of the Front Range, and these buyers are well-paid professionals who want to buy into the mountain communities."

According to LIV Sotheby's International Realty, another local real estate firm that's based in Breckenridge, they've analyzed a number of resort markets across multiple Western states — including Vail Valley, Breckenridge, Aspen, Telluride, Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs in Colorado, Park City, Utah, and resorts in California, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

All of those saw increases in the average price and average price per square foot of a home, according to LIV Sotheby's latest resort report.

The report explains it as "a clear indicator of consumers' continued desire for lifestyle-inspired home purchases and willingness to spend more for homes they truly desire."

Moore doesn't disagree, but he thinks Summit offers something most other resort locations don't.

"What's interesting to me is even through we're seeing these numbers, if you look across ski areas statewide, Summit County is still an absolute value when it comes to mountain properties in resort markets," he said. "It's a piece of paradise that everyone wants, and we're only an hour to two away from the boom on the Front Range."

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