On the Hill: Superfund slopes
October 1, 2007
KELLOGG, Idaho ” It may seem an unlikely candidate for the Pacific Northwest’s latest vacation hot spot, but this former mining town has survived decades of decline to boom once more.
The once-heavily-polluted mining community ” a massive Superfund site ” seems to have been transformed virtually overnight into a swanky ski resort, Silver Mountain, with newcomers flocking to buy condos and open businesses.
“It was a definite surprise it took off the way it did,” said Mayor Mac Pooler, a lifelong resident. “We were hoping something would do that.”
In a place where homes were selling for $30,000 five years ago, brand- new condos costing more than $800,000 are selling as fast as they go on the market. A huge indoor water park is under construction in the ski village. A destination golf course is being built on the edge of the town.
New businesses are sprouting all over the town of 2,000 located in northern Idaho, about an hour east of Spokane, Wash.
Catalyst for much of the growth is Jeld-Wen Communities, the real estate arm of the Jeld-Wen wood products company of Klamath Falls, Ore. The company purchased the Silver Mountain ski resort in 1996 and began making plans to expand.
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A key event occurred in 2004, when its first 68 condos were placed on the market and sold out immediately, some for as low as $ 100,000 as developers were unsure if there would be any demand. A second offering of 110 condos sold out in one day in 2005. The third and final phase of 99 condos sold out in one day late last year.
The latest batch of condos are quite posh, built on a mining theme with lots of stone, exposed beams and light fixtures that reproduce historical photos on the shades. Some cost more than $800,000.
A mile from the ski village, Jeld-Wen is building the 18-hole Galena Ridge golf course that will eventually contain hundreds of residences. The first 40 homesites are on the market and most have sold.
Silver Mountain gets more than 300 inches of snow a year, and while units at the resort’s Morning Star Lodge are individually owned as condominiums, many can be rented by visitors for overnight accommodations.
There is nothing unusual about a depleted western mining town turning into a ski resort. Telluride is a good example. But few places seemed less promising than Kellogg.