Locals not deterred by Waldo Canyon fire, foothills still 'desirable part of town'

June 23, 2013 Updated: June 23, 2013 at 10:05 am

The 347 homes destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire have done little, if anything, to dissuade local residents from living in foothills neighborhoods - arguably the most scenic areas that Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region have to offer.

"We're just not making any more of that land," said Rick Van Wieren, a real estate agent with Re/Max Properties in Colorado Springs. "With the Air Force Academy sitting north of Peregrine (on the Springs' far northwest side) and running all the way to Monument, you just don't have any more of this kind of property, really, being made and developed. If people want to live close to nature, that's where they've got to be."

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, which issues building permits in Colorado Springs and surrounding El Paso County, has closely tracked rebuilding efforts in Mountain Shadows, the northwest neighborhood where homes were destroyed.

Through June 4, 185 building permits had been issued for the rebuilding of single-family homes in the Mountain Shadows areas - more than half of the total number of homes destroyed, according to Regional Building Department records.

John Bissett, founder of JM Weston Homes and board president of the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, called the number "an amazing comeback" and testament to the desire of residents to live in the foothills, along with efforts by government officials to expedite the building process.

But Mountain Shadows residents aren't the only ones with a desire to continue living in foothills areas.

Homebuying remains strong in several foothills neighborhoods, and prices continue to climb for the most part, regardless of the fire's memory.

Pikes Peak Association of Realtors data compiled by Van Wieren show that combined, year-over-year sales and prices increased in seven foothills areas in El Paso and Teller counties in the year after the Waldo Canyon fire.

The seven areas, whose boundaries are drawn by the Realtors Association, include northwest, west and southwest Colorado Springs; Manitou Springs; the Tri-Lakes areas in northern El Paso County; the Ute Pass communities; and Woodland Park in Teller County.

According to Van Wieren's numbers:

- Single-family home sales in the seven areas combined totaled 1,720 from June 23, 2012 - when the fire began - to May 31. It was a 12.3 percent increase in home sales over the same period one year earlier, when sales in the seven areas totaled 1,531.

- The combined median price of all homes that sold in the seven areas was $299,700 in the post-fire period, up 6.7 percent over $281,000 a year earlier.

- Individually, five of the seven foothills areas saw year-over-year price increases, while two had slight declines. In west Colorado Springs, the median price of homes that sold from June 23, 2012, to May 31 was $204,250, down 2 percent from the same period a year earlier. On the northwest side, which includes Mountain Shadows, the median price of post-fire home sales was $294,250, a 1.1 percent drop from $297,500 a year earlier. But the price per square foot of homes sold in that area over the past year actually was higher than a year earlier.

"It continues to be a very desirable part of town to live," Van Wieren said.


Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228

Twitter @richladen

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