WOLCOTT — Mere moments after the county commissioners gave Rick Hermes and the Jouflas family the green light to build the Wolcott community, Hermes’ phone started ringing.
“All of a sudden it became very real. We’ve been overwhelmed with a positive response and not just from local businesses but from people interested in living there,” Hermes said.
The media’s interest has also been piqued. Wolcott has been the subject of stories by NPR, CBS News and the Associated Press. One hook in those stories is how long it’s been since anything of this scope was approved in Eagle County or anywhere else in the region.
“Beaver Creek is the last major development that involved a community center,” said Bob Naracci, Eagle County’s community development director.
Arrowhead, Cordillera and Fred Kummer’s Frost Creek cover as many acres, but they’re golf course developments and don’t have the commercial and retail scope of Wolcott, Naracci said.
“We’re still hoping to break ground later this year,” Hermes said.
It will start with building utilities, roundabouts and moving U.S. Highway 6 closer to Interstate 70 and away from the Eagle River.
“There’s a lot to be done,” Hermes said.
Moving Highway 6 requires getting the green light from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“They understand our timing and our sensitivity to getting jobs in motion,” Hermes said.
The Department of Transportation’s Ashley Mohr said they’re moving forward, and it’s feasible that something could happen within a year, but there are still many details to work through.
That’s not new. On their way to approval, the developers and the Jouflas family went through 32 meetings over five and a half years.
Building Wolcott will generate 1,600 jobs. When it’s done, 800 jobs will be added to the local economy, including professionals who locate offices and businesses there. Those numbers were generated by Lex Ivey, a Boulder-based consultant who also does job projections for Eagle County and other public and private sector clients.
Various projects and Wolcott master plans have been percolating since the 1980s. In May 2008 the Jouflas family put the property under contract with Hermes and his partners, Community Concepts Colorado. That’s about the time the county said it wanted Wolcott developed as a single entity.
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. That ranch is where the Wolcott community will be built.
“This isn’t just a commodity to be turned into money. We love this land. If we didn’t think this was a good project we would never have become part of it,” said Greg Jouflas before the commissioners voted unanimously to approve it.
Wolcott’s downtown promenade would have an historical look and feel similar to Denver’s Larimer Square, and it’s focal point would be the Eagle River, including 1.5 miles of limited public access, Hermes said.
Timing may be right
The data indicates the real estate market will support the project. 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 from 2000 to 2010, and the Colorado State Demographer projects the population to reach 64,070 in 2015 and 72,227 in 2020.
The consumption that drove the housing bubble is over, said the marketing research firm of Brooke Warrick and Peter Yesawich, in a presentation to Urban Land Institute. They say Baby Boomers have eased away from their pre-recession tendency toward consumerism, and now want to focus on personal relationships and community.
“With the Baby Boomer generation reaching their 50s, 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 with the right project in the right place, the second home window for Boomers could extend late into this decade, they said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.