Home construction shows no sign of slowing | AspenTimes.com

Home construction shows no sign of slowing

Total investment in home building and improvements is on the rise in Aspen after a post 9/11 slump, and industry professionals say a recovering economy is largely responsible.According to city of Aspen records, spending on residential projects plummeted from about $127 million in 2001 to $60 million in 2002. It climbed to roughly $106 million in 2003 and $116 million in 2004. And in 2005, it soared to $243 million. The numbers are based on the actual valuation, which is what the city estimates a given project will cost builders.In addition, the number of applications to build new single-family homes also increased from 10 in 2003 to 16 in 2004. There were even more – 19 – filed in 2005. There were also eight duplex applications in 2005, compared with just one in 2003 and 2004.”I think it’s just the economy,” said Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon. “It had been treading water for a good three years after 9/11.”Wayne Stryker of Stryker/Brown Architects agreed that a recovering economy is driving development in Aspen.”People buy things because they are confident,” Stryker said.Terry Hale, who operates local contracting firm Hale and Associates LLC and also works in real estate, said the current market allows for high profit margins on new homes and improvements – encouraging people to build whatever they can.”If you can afford $500 a square foot [for construction costs], you can sell it for $1,000 a square foot,” Hale said.And while Aspen has only a limited supply of land and homes, technology and an increasingly globalized economy mean its demand keeps expanding.”People are capable of buying from long distances,” Stryker said. And when people spend money on anything – whether it’s a plot of land or a house – they’re often willing to pay to be comfortable.”When people buy something, they want it to be their way,” he said.And to maximize their investment, people build large when renovating or building a new home.”They’ve always tried to build maximum,” Hale said.Is the demand going to decrease?Assuming the economy remains strong, Aspen’s popularity likely won’t decline – whether the city levels a moratorium or not.Although a six-month moratorium the City Council recently approved puts a damper on new project applications within the city limits, it is likely people will still want to build if they have the money. The moratorium does not apply to single-family and duplex development, and it is largely geared toward preventing properties in the commercial district from being converted to residential spaces like condos.”I don’t see any long-term, significant decrease in Aspen being an attractive place,” Bendon said. “It will still be a popular destination and a place people want to come.” As of May 10, spending on residential projects in 2006 was $62 million.Hale said he believes the moratorium and other city regulations encourage more immediate residential development. Rather than limiting building, he said, people are always rushing to build before the city issues new regulations.”Construction and building in Aspen is a very scary game,” Hale said. “They keep people in a constant state of panic.”Stryker said that while the regulations do keep people on their toes, the moratorium wouldn’t have as much of an effect as the economy. Restricting what’s available for residential space doesn’t necessarily mean people won’t want it anymore.”Simply because the supply is restricted doesn’t mean the demand is,” Stryker said. He added that Aspen has a history of trying to control growth, and that the moratorium is essentially nothing new.”Through the decades, it’s a progression,” he said.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is gschreier@aspentimes.com

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