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February 28, 2013
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Wolcott hitting market at the right time, developers say

WOLCOTT, Colorado - Wolcott has survived wars, depressions and abandonment. A plan to build a town there was unveiled in 2006 and has survived the market collapse. Now, the market is ready for Wolcott, and Wolcott is almost ready for the market, said developer Rick Hermes.

The plan goes back to the county commissioners for the final round of approvals this spring. Hermes and Community Concepts Colorado hope to start turning dirt this summer.

"It's a tribute to our investors," Hermes said. "They understood the unique location from the very beginning and they've been patient."

Hermes and his group have several approvals already, including a 4-3 vote from the Eagle County Planning Commission to recommend that the county commissioners give it one final green light.

"The response has been overwhelming. The market is shifting quickly," Hermes said.

The data

Eagle County's population was to 51,854 in 2010, and the U.S. Census indicates our numbers are not shrinking. The county's population was 7,498 in 1970.

Eagle County's population grew at 2.7 percent per year between 2000 and 2010, and even with the downturn the Colorado State Demographer projects the population to reach 64,070 in 2015 and 72,227 in 2020.

The appetite for consumption that drove the housing bubble is over, says the marketing research firm of Brooke Warrick and Peter Yesawich, in a presentation to Urban Land Institute. They say Baby Boomers have eased away their pre-recession tendency toward consumerism, and now want to focus on personal relationships and community.

"With the Baby Boomer generation reaching their 50's, the demand that has fed our industry for the past few decades may be on the move," Warrick and Yesawich said.

Baby Boomers are working later into their lives and that shift could mean that with the right project in the right place, the second home window for Boomers could extend into the later years of this decade, they said.

And that's where Wolcott lives, Hermes said.

"There is no other world-class, four-season resort offering located less than two hours from a major urban center in the United States. There is only one Vail Valley," Hermes said.

Wolcott's future

Wolcott will create 1,600 jobs to build and staff the planned community. More than 800 of those jobs would remain after construction is finished, Hermes said.

"We're local and we want to keep it that way. We've been talking to local builders and brokers. We need to make them part of the product," Hermes said. "The best we can do is create jobs to help the market."

The project parallels Eagle County's Wolcott area master plan. It will start by realigning U.S. Highway 6, moving it away from the Eagle River and closer to Interstate 70.

That keeps the highway from splitting the community like it does in other communities. That makes Wolcott a pedestrian community, Hermes said.

The "Old Town Promenade" is the community's core and will be bordered by both retail storefronts and residential brownstones, creating a pedestrian-friendly western town.

There's a barn/community center, and pedestrian paths run throughout.

The focal point is the Eagle River, and a mile-and-a-half of limited public access.

Most of the homes will be moderately priced and come in around 2,000 square feet. When it's completed, Wolcott would be home to around 2,000 people.

Wolcott's past

If completed as planned, this would be the second time Wolcott has been a local community center.

The town was once a thriving railhead community of 1,500 people called Russell, after one of the early settlers. Ranchers and farmers from the Eagle River and Colorado River valleys brought products to the railhead to ship to the Front Range. It was also the major intersection of two major highways, U.S. Highway 6 and Highway 131.

Russell fizzled after the Moffat Tunnel was completed in 1928, and rail traffic was rerouted around Wolcott.

The Jouflas family acquired the ranch in 1924, and has owned it ever since. At one time, the Jouflas family ran one of the four largest sheep operations in country.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Feb 28, 2013 08:28PM Published Feb 28, 2013 08:27PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.