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Mountain News: Ski towns battening down the hatches

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Ski towns and resorts continue to batten down the hatches, preparing for a rough go of it after a number of years on easy street.

In Breckenridge, bookings for winter through the Breckenridge Resort Chamber are down 17 to 20 per cent. Collections from the real estate transfer tax are also down — something that didn’t happen even after the slowdown of 2001-2002. Even then, notes the Summit Daily News, the real estate economy remained somewhat strong.

Real estate construction has slowed, and in cases stopped. A year ago planning for 1,700 new housing units on former mining lands in a triangle between the towns of Minturn, Red Cliff, and Vail were hurtling forward. Now, things can wait.

“There isn’t any urgency,” said Bill Weber, senior vice president for the Ginn Co., the developer. The land was annexed into Minturn earlier this year, and now the company has three years to submit final development plans. Also proposed are a ski area, a golf course, and a gondola connecting the two.

Go-slow is also the story in Steamboat Springs. There, commercial development at the base of the ski area built during the 1970s is in the process of redevelopment. Several buildings have been demolished with the expectation of new shops and condominiums plus a street design that is both more pleasing and functional.

But an agency of city government has postponed its planned issuance of $20 million in bonds to pay for new pedestrian area walkways and other public infrastructure improvements to complement the private sector work. Without that bond issue, city officials tell The Steamboat Pilot & Today, nothing is likely to happen next year in upgrading public areas.

What will happen in the private-sector work remains to be seen. A major developer, The Atira Group, admits uncertainty, but retains hope that high-end real estate will not be as deeply affected.

“We’re definitely in a challenging time for the next few months… But it’s not as much of a concern with a higher-end project,” said Mark Matthews, a vice-president with Atira.

But Lou Antonnucci, the president of the Steamboat Springs City Council, said he fears the original timetable for a completed redevelopment within three to five years might be impossible.

“It’s almost like our worst nightmare came true,” he said. “The fact is, we’ve got a wasteland up there.”

Steamboat’s improved future, he continued, “really depends on there being buyers out there who are willing to buy a second home in Steamboat.”

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