Vail Valley developer takes over stalled El Jebel project
EL JEBEL – An El Jebel townhouse project that’s been stalled for roughly 18 months was purchased by an Eagle Valley developer who said he intends to restart construction this month.
Dave Forenza, a developer and contractor from Edwards, purchased the Shadowrock project March 31 for $16.5 million, according to a deed filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder. He bought it through an entity he created called El Jebel Townhomes Borrower LLC, of which he is the principal.
Forenza said the purchase price was for the undeveloped portion of the project – about 70 townhouses. He also bought seven units that the former developer constructed but wasn’t able to sell. That boosted the purchase price to about $22 million, Forenza said.
Forenza said he sees a golden opportunity by acquiring the project. He said he will be able to build the remaining units for a substantially lower price than three years ago because labor and materials are so much less expensive. He intends to pass the savings on to buyers to try to ensure activity in a slow market. He believes the real estate market in the Roaring Fork Valley is on the verge of a rebound.
“Americans can only sit stagnant for so long before they get the urge to spend,” Forenza said. “When the market does turn around, I’ll have product out there.”
Shadowrock is located across Highway 82 from the City Market in El Jebel. Eagle County approved 100 luxury townhouses on the site. Blue Ridge Investments Inc. constructed 30 before running out of financing in fall 2008. Several liens were filed against the project by contractor R.A. Nelson and subcontractors, but those have been settled.
Forenza said he learned about the availability of Shadowrock from Colorado Capital Bank in Eagle, which organized financing for the former developers. The project was not in foreclosure, but it couldn’t be determined Tuesday if Blue Ridge Investments had stopped repaying the loan – forcing the bank to shop for a buyer.
Forenza studied the project and the midvalley market starting last fall and felt comfortable moving ahead with the purchase. He presented the bank officials with his vision of Shadowrock and, he said, they liked what they heard.
Forenza said he was proceeding with the purchase before he learned that Willits Town Center re-signed Whole Foods Market as its anchor tenant. That gave him extra confidence in the potential strength of Shadowrock. (The Willits developer is still seeking financing to build the grocery store.)
Forenza said he had a strong relationship with Colorado Capital Bank because of his conservative approach as a developer of speculative luxury homes and as a contractor.
“I was very conservative even during the upswing,” Forenza said. “In ’08-09, we escaped unscathed.”
When the market was humming, sales of townhouses at Shadowrock topped out at $1.1 million for the largest units. Forenza said he will drop the price of the remaining seven completed but unsold units to between $650,000 to $750,000. He is eager to sell them and generate renewed interest in Shadowrock.
He hasn’t determined sales prices for the remaining units. “Affordable is what I can say,” he said.
Forenza’s construction firm will be the general contractor on the project. It placed an advertisement last week in newspapers in Aspen and Vail looking for bids from subcontractors and received more than 100 inquiries in just a few days, according to Rick Irvin, who heads Forenza’s contracting firm.
Construction will initially be restarted on the 22 townhouses in five buildings where the foundations were poured before the project stalled. Robert Ladd, president of RAL Architects Inc., said he must essentially stick with the original design on the next 22 units since the foundations are finished. However the team plans to switch from the mountain rustic interior of the original units to a more contemporary design.
The approvals will allow some flexibility in the remaining 48 units, Ladd said. He plans to make better use of orientation to increase the passive solar characteristics of the second phase. The phase II units will be more open and bright.
Forenza said he will offer lots of options for floor plans and upgrades to “get some traction.” Buyers appreciate the ability to customize, he has learned. The units will be marketed for locals as well as second-home buyers who are still priced out of Aspen, he said.
Forenza has been an Eagle Valley resident since August 1994. His firm, Forenza Contracting Inc., now specializes in custom luxury homes, mostly in the Eagle Valley. He is building the eight-unit Courtyard Villas, which are larger and high-end than Shadowrock, in Avon. He’s also starting work on streets and infrastructure on a 92-unit subdivision of starter homes in Grand Junction.
Forenza said Shadowrock’s remaining 70 units could be built out within 36 to 40 months – “quicker if the market picks up.”