MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – For years after the 2007 financial crisis, the Villas at Cortina stood as a grand symbol of the impact of the subsequent Great Recession on Telluride. Just months from completion, the building was literally wrapped in white plastic by the creditors who seized it to protect it from the elements while it waited for a financial rescue. Because of its prominent setting on a ridge in plain view of the gondola, the structure stood out on the landscape – an enormous white elephant.
Untold numbers of gondola riders pointed to the unfinished building and asked each other: “What’s that?”
If it was a glaring symbol of how deeply the Great Recession hammered the Telluride region from 2007 and through last year, then Cortina’s revival is as apt a symbol of recovery now, says the building’s listing broker Michael Ward of Telluride Sotheby’s International Realty.
Acquired by the Dallas-based investment group Eastern Partners 2.5 years ago, Cortina was unwrapped, and construction resumed on the 12 units in the project. One of six units in the first phase is under contract, and two in phase 2 are under contract.
The high-end Mountain Village condo market was and has been perhaps the biggest single drag on the regional real estate market, with several projects, including both Cortina and the Madeline, first entering and then coming out of foreclosure.
This week’s announcement that the Hotel Madeline, with 100 hotel rooms and 60 condos, has been acquired from the bank that has operated it since it went into foreclosure is another potent indication that the recession has finally loosened its grip on the region.
The numbers tell the story. According to Jake McTigue of Sotheby’s, sales of condos in Mountain Village have recovered from a low of $43.3 million in 2009 to $79.8 million in 2013. At the same time, the absorption rate has dropped from 110 months in 2009 to just 22 months this year.
Most of the inventory of Mountain Village condos on the market now consists of older units that are being resold, Ward said. The new units are moving quickly and will be sold in the next 18 months, he predicted.
The high-end condo market in Mountain Village is split between condos in the Mountain Village Core, like the units at the Hotel Madeline, and a cluster of projects off San Joaquin Road and Mountain Village Blvd, including Cortina.
“Different buyers are drawn to the core and to this area,” Ward said, standing on a deck at one of the Cortina units, looking down at the core. “And to the town of Telluride,” he added.
The truly spectacular 180 degree views from Cortina – encompassing Palmyra Peak, the San Sophia Ridge to the south and Utah’s La Sals to the distant west, classic Mountain Village – is the reverse angle of what those thousands of gondola riders saw so prominently when the building was wrapped in bright white.
“In general, people are buying these high end condos now, since the recession, because they are actually smaller and more modest than a single-family residence, plus they like the amenities package and the services provided by the HOA.”
At Cortina, those amenities include ski-in, ski-out, a year-round pool with views, concierge, underground parking, work-out facility, and more, Ward said. The last of the Mountain Village high-end condos, because there are only a couple of lots zoned for new ones, Cortina is drawing prospective buyers who fly in just to take a look, he said.
Although Ward understandably maintains his listing is the best of the bunch with the best views and the best amenities, others in the neighborhood – Cassidy Ridge, Tristant and Elkstone 21 – have also seen a revival of sales.
The Great Recession, which saw huge projects fail and employment plummet in the region, may finally be in the past.