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Homeowners associations in Routt County seize remodeling opportunities

The tan stucco finish on the firewall of The Phoenix on Après Ski Way once dominated the exterior of the project. The homeowners association at The Phoenix is in the midst of a $3.9 million renovation project that includes everything from updated exteriors to a subsurface storm drain system to reduce parking lot ice caused by melting snow.
Tom Ross





The tan stucco finish on the firewall of The Phoenix on Après Ski Way once dominated the exterior of the project. The homeowners association at The Phoenix is in the midst of a $3.9 million renovation project that includes everything from updated exteriors to a subsurface storm drain system to reduce parking lot ice caused by melting snow.
Tom Ross

— If alterations and remodels of existing buildings have provided the foundation of the construction business in Steamboat Springs in 2011, it has been exterior remodels on condominium and townhome communities that have put the oomph behind the dollar value of Steamboat’s remodels.

Torian Plum on the north side of the Steamboat Ski Area base and The Phoenix on the south side have tackled seven-figure projects this summer.

And just removed from the ski area base, the homeowners association at The Ranch at Steamboat is well into an ambitious five-year plan backed by a detailed consultant’s study that is allowing them to replace decks and build modern hot tub shelters. All of that is being done without the need of a special assessment thanks in part to a line of credit created for the HOA by a local bank.



The Torian Plum Homeowners Association (including commercial condominiums) was granted a building permit valued at $825,000 in August 2010 to repair a leaking concrete roof over a semi-underground parking garage. But that was just the beginning.

The roof of the parking garage was at the same grade as shops and restaurants in Torian Plum Plaza and was covered with a large lawn that occasionally was used for public events like The Wine Festival at Steamboat.



However, with tens of millions being invested right next door on the new public snow-melted promenade at the base of the ski area, the Torian Plum owners took advantage of that momentum to invest further in their property and create a seamless interface with the promenade where it climbs a broad set of snow-melted stairs connecting it to the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Gondola Square.

Frank Alfone, general manager of ResortQuest Steamboat, which manages the property and the HOA, said the owners took the opportunity to make substantial improvements to outdoor gathering areas at the property for a total project cost of about $2 million.

“The roof of the parking garage has always leaked, and we’ve used an engineer to inspect it annually. Two years ago, they came back to the Torian owners and told them it was time to consider repairs to prevent further undermining of the concrete,” Alfone said. “It coincided with the promenade work, so the timing was great.”

Torian Plum’s new public plaza was done before any of the other promenade work could be completed this summer, and when the final product is unveiled in summer 2012, Torian’s enviable location at the snow edge on Steamboat’s

lowest ski trails will match the design and materials of the resort’s new public gathering areas perfectly.

Alfone said the HOA funded the work with a combination of existing capital reserves and a loan from Alpine Bank. Owners had the choice of paying their prorate share in a lump sum or using up to the 10-year life of the loan to make payments. The combined result of the public and private improvements has enhanced Torian’s location at the base of the ski area, Alfone said.

“It provides a convenient base area where people can push strollers or walk their dogs on a clear, snow-melted area,” he said.

Stucco into gold

The Phoenix, across Après Ski Way with quick pedestrian access to the ski base, was built 30 years ago, and its stucco exterior, though durable, was dated. Its HOA has invested $3.9 million in an exterior remodel architected by Eric Smith Associates and carried out by Snow Country Construction, of Steamboat, that has made a dramatic difference in the appearance of the property that was built in 1983. The new Phoenix boasts wood siding panels in contemporary color schemes, natural stone wainscoting and more.

Blaine Hvambsal, Mountain Resorts’ vice president of association management, said that short-term rentals factor significantly in the plans of a majority of owners at The Phoenix and that the owners thought it was optimal timing to upgrade their property. Mountain Resorts arranged two financial plans to help owners manage the per-unit cost that ranged from $50,000 to $90,000 based on the square footage of individual condominiums.

Sprucing up The Ranch

The Ranch, also managed by Mountain Resorts, a part of the Resort Group, also was built in the 1980s.

HOA president Vic Arnold, a retired business professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said his board and owners are confident that values in the Steamboat real estate market eventually will rebound and that their strategy is based on keeping the property competitive in anticipation of that day.

“We’re in a unique location with spectacular views and amenities,” Arnold said. “This was a strategic move. We had postponed a lot of improvements. We decided that we need to be competitive when the market changes. I’m confident we’ll be in that position.”

The Ranch has what may be a unique value prospect in Arnold’s view: The 88-unit condominium project is on a south-facing hill on the north side of Burgess Creek next to its own dedicated open space of nearly 25 acres.

The owners obtained a 10-year loan from Alpine Bank for $1.2 million within the past five years to purchase an undeveloped parcel that showed the potential for new condominium buildings and then sold three smaller lots within the large parcel of almost 25 acres. Taking that step left them with 23 acres of open space comprising a deeded open space parcel and another with a conservation easement on it that is held by the city of Steamboat Springs, Arnold said. As a result, the loan was retired within three years.

The open space is valued by the entire community at The Ranch, which didn’t want to lose the natural stand of aspen trees and meadow grass framing knockout views of the ski area, Arnold added.

Of the 88 condominiums in The Ranch, half are in the nightly rental pool, General Manager Peggy Rogers said. And the property has a distinct residential feel with the average owner spending 30 days in their condominium.

“This is a community. It’s a way of life for us,” Arnold said.

The project has a pool, hot tubs, a business center, a lounge and tennis courts.

Armed with an 80-page study conducted by Felix Reserve Group, of Denver, that looks 30 years into the future, the HOA board at The Ranch has launched the first five steps of its improvement plan. To carry it out while interest rates are favorable and construction costs are relatively moderate, the board arranged for a line of credit from its bankers that has helped it spend $775,000 on improvements in the past two years.

Improvements have included new deck rails that are an upgrade from the 1980s design, overseen by Michael JK Olsen Architects; wood staining of the entire project; replacement of sagging retaining wall with boulders and plantings; new signage mounted on stone monoliths; landscaping and irrigation; and completely refurbished vestibules in the buildings with new tile at the entrances and contemporary lighting.

Phoenix rising

The fiscal approach to the nearly $4 million upgrade at The Phoenix, where roughly two-thirds of the condominiums are in heavy rotation in the nightly rental pool, was different from that of The Ranch, Hvambsal said.

With special assessments greater than $50,000 per unit, the HOA gave its members a couple of options. Financing was arranged with Yampa Valley Bank.

“People who were able to pay the lump sum didn’t have to pay any loan closing cost or any interest on the construction loan,” Hvambsal said. “Others had the option of repaying the (assessment) over a 10-year period.”

Snow Country Construction was able to transition to The Phoenix job from an exterior remodel at The West, Hvambsal said.

“There were upwards of 100 workers on the job, including subcontractors, which is a great thing,” he added.

The work included the installation of attractive, carriage-style garage doors coupled with an underground drainage system to collect snowmelt from roofs beneath new asphalt, a new fire alarm system and landscaping. The homeowners also redesigned a piece of the property to make room for the possibility that Steamboat’s Urban Renewal Authority someday will build a pedestrian underpass beneath Après Ski Way to connect with the base area promenade.

Coming attractions

Hvambsal said the homeowners association at Ski Time Square Condominiums, after years of deferring maintenance while awaiting their fate during the Cafritz Interests/Atira Group planning process for redeveloping Ski Time Square, is getting ready to upgrade its building and grounds.

Tentative plans include revegetation of the banks of Burgess Creek where it flows between the bicycle pump track to the east and the demolition site for a part of the commercial strip that once stood on the north side of Ski Time Square.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com


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