“Development is now a new watchword for the region,” Lake County Building and Land Use Director Paul Clarkson said. “In the past, Lake County hasn’t benefited or suffered from growth as some of our neighboring counties have.”
Things are changing. In the 2019 building season, Lake County saw about a 500% increase in building-permit submittals from 2018.
Though still more affordable than surrounding resort communities, the county’s real estate market is skyrocketing as local housing shortages persist.
Three new subdivisions, the first proposed in Lake County in more than a decade, are in the works.
Westwoods Subdivision, a 65-lot subdivision just outside Leadville’s city limits, is currently under construction. Though the subdivision’s developer and KW Construction & Restoration owner Kyle Welch hoped to keep homes below $350,000, they are now expected to start around $370,000 because of rising labor and material costs.
Infrastructure work is also underway at the Railyard at Leadville, a large mixed-use development within city limits. The Railyard will include a commercial corridor along U.S. 24 and apartments, townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes to the east.
If built, Gateway Village is set to be Lake County’s largest subdivision, potentially providing housing for some 1,500 people. Proposed by developer Duane Cozart, Gateway Village is still working through the county’s permitting process.
A variety of rehabilitation projects are also underway along Leadville’s historic Harrison Avenue.
City on a Hill owner Adam Schuknecht and Leadville Race Series enthusiast Matt Delaney are restoring a vacant building on the avenue’s 300 block to include eight upstairs apartments and a City on a Hill expansion.
Across the street, the Scarlet Tavern’s new owner plans to renovate the bar’s upstairs apartments while two out-of-state investors, who fell in love with Leadville while competing in the races, recently completed a mixed-use rehabilitation of an 1889 building that sat vacant for more than 20 years.
Housing shortages endure as Lake County’s new developments and many of its residential infill projects are yet to be completed. When properties do hit the market, they quickly sell despite relatively high – for Leadville – price points.
“If priced correctly, houses under $300,000 are under contract within a few days to a week,” Centennial Real Estate owner Carol Glenn said. According to a local housing-needs assessment completed last winter, the average sale prices of homes in Lake County has risen $30,370, or about 12 percent, since 2015.
Local initiatives to preserve and increase affordable housing are emerging amidst the county’s new development and strong real estate market.
“It is our number one economic limiter in Lake County,” Leadville Mayor Greg Labbe said of the lack of affordable housing.
The city passed short-term rental regulations last spring and the county is examining the pros and cons of an inclusionary zoning policy.
“There is a group in Leadville that is really invested in ensuring the future of affordable housing,” Lake County Build a Generation Director Katie Baldassar said. “We want to make sure that as a community we are not just saying ‘Oh, well.’”