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Edwards on list of U.S. ‘dreamtowns’

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyBizjournals.com has put Edwards in the top 10 of "America's Dreamtowns" " a list small cities and towns which it considers great to live and do business in.
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EDWARDS ” It’s still true. When it comes to places to live and work, it’s all about location.

Edwards’ location in the middle of the valley has made it a popular, bustling area. Now Edwards has a new location, in the middle of a list of the top 10 best small cities and towns in the United States.

The list was compiled by Bizjournals.com, an Internet publication owned by the same company that owns the Denver Business Journal and similar newspapers around the country.

The recognition of Edwards as a special place to live is something Carol Williams has hoped for, and worked for, for decades.

Williams and her husband, Bill, got into Edwards early, developing Old Edwards Estates in the 1970s and ’80s, the Morning Star townhomes in the early 1990s, and, later, the Riverwalk complex.

All those projects were bets that Edwards would eventually be what it’s become, a bustling area with crowded restaurants, busy shops, and the year ’round vibrancy for which Vail Village strives.

“This is what we’d hoped would come to fruition,” Williams said of the national recognition. “It’s what all our hopes and desires and dreams had been aiming for.”

Because it was put together by a business publication, the criteria used to create the list included the growth of small businesses and the number of small businesses per 1,000 residents. Other factors in the survey included income growth, the property tax burden, and the education level of the local population. The survey also measured housing affordability.

So, what do Edwards business owners think of the area as a place to do business?

Both Linda Hill and Raymond Bleesz are glad they set up shop in the mid-valley.

Bleesz, co-owner of Brush Creek Dry Goods in Riverwalk, bought a small space nearly eight years ago.

“The timing and the location was right at the time,” Bleesz said. Since buying his first 965-square-foot space, he’s bought three more units. He’s expanded the store into those adjacent storefronts and now rents out the original shop space.

“I’m putting all my money into Riverwalk right now,” he said. “It’s been a very good investment.”

When Bleesz first opened in Riverwalk, the place didn’t have near the bustle it does now, he said.

“It’s turned out to be a great place to be,” he said. “There are locals, second-home owners, and we get some of the bedroom and condo people in Vail coming down to shop.”

And the folks who live in Edwards, many of whom are well-educated with plenty of disposable income, are just the kind of people to whom Brush Creek Dry Goods caters.

“We sell lifestyle clothing,” store co-owner Faith Bleesz said. “People here are playing golf, fishing, biking, and really enjoying it.”

Edwards also attracts people whose businesses don’t use cash registers.

Linda Hill, owner of Hill and Company, a local advertising and marketing agency, was one of the first business owners to buy a space in Riverwalk in 1995. It’s been a good move.

“We first moved here for the opportunity to purchase our space,” Hill said. “But we saw the scope of Riverwalk and Edwards, and saw it could become a hub. We could live close to where we work, and have entertainment here.”

Hill said the education level of residents helps her find people with the skills needed to work in her office. Even if those professionals live in Avon or Eagle, Edwards’ location makes it easy for them to get to work.

For Hill, Edwards’ location is about her own people and her customers.

With clients on the Western Slope the Front Range and in other states, Hill said Edwards is a good place to be.

“We have to think about access to the airport,” she said. “And the driveability to the Western Slope and the Front Range is good.”

And, Hill said, Edwards is also a good place to bring clients, since there are now several restaurants and catering companies in the neighborhood.

“It’s a very good place to do business,” she said.

As Edwards has grown and businesses have come, the people who live in the area find life more convenient all the time.

“It’s a convenient lifestyle in a very nice place,” Singletree resident Mitch Perry said.

Perry and his family live on a street that reflects what much of Edwards has become. There are real estate agents, doctors, school teachers and retired people in his neighborhood. Shopping and restaurants are moments away, and much more is just a few minutes farther by car.

“Anywhere you go there’s an amenity,” he said.

Dana Maurer and her family moved to Homestead about 10 years ago. They ended up in Edwards kind of by accident, she said.

“Now we wouldn’t live anywhere else,” Maurer said.

A decade ago, Edwards was just starting to catch fire, and there was much less going on in and around Riverwalk. That was a little tough for a young family that had just moved west from Chicago.

“Now, we can drive, bike or walk down the hill and have it all,” she said. “We have fabulous restaurants now. We used to go to Vail or Beaver Creek for special occasions, and now we don’t need to.

“And there’s great shopping,” she added. “I still can’t shop for the kids here, but if I need an outfit or a gift, it’s right there.”

Besides what’s in the middle of Edwards, the Maurers’ neighborhood is chock-full of kids.

“We’ve made some great friends,” she said.

Besides families, Edwards has become a Mecca for people like Gary Charbrand. A business owner in Jacksonville, Fla., Charbrand had come to Vail to ski a few times, but hadn’t been to the valley in the summer.

A few years ago, he came to play in a golf tournament at Singletree organized by a group from Jacksonville.

“We came out on a Friday and bought a house on Sunday,” Charbrand said. “I love it out here. We come out for the summer, do a little work, and try to enjoy the summer.

“There are about eight couples from (Jacksonville) who’ve bought homes in Edwards,” he added. “We’re taking over.

bizjournals.com/edit_special/41.html

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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