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What’s Shakin’ in Salida?

Once the holidays pass and MLK weekend has come and gone things tend to settle down here in Salida and start to plod along at that slow, small-town-winter pace. All of a sudden there is seating in the restaurants again and you know most of the folks at the bar, the lift lines have gone back down to almost nothing, the mountain is “ours” again and the Monarch Lodge is full of familiar faces. Work and play butt heads on powder days, but other than that it’s generally a pretty relaxed pace until spring break.

Maybe it’s the mild winter that is responsible for keeping things moving, because this year there seems to be no sign of things slowing down – no indicator that it is, in fact, late January. Sure, the numbers came out yesterday offering statistics that compare real estate transactions were down 18.38% in Chaffee County from 2009 to 2010, and the total dollar amount down 16.5%. While statistics offer the empirical data that some thrive on, I’m not sure they are the best, and they are certainly not the only, barometer we have when it comes to the local economy and what it indicates for the real estate industry.
Full of momentum and still riding on the coattails of initiatives begun in 2010, there is little doubt that Salida is on a mission to invest in itself and its future. In 2010 Salida residents passed a $17 million bond issue, supported by a $12 million grant from the State of Colorado to fund a new high school – a decision that had students and teachers high-fiving in the hallways after getting the good news. With local firms currently caught up in the bidding process, and forums being set up for community input, construction is due to start as early as April. In addition, the city has also approved a $17.6 million project to install a new waste water treatment plant. Combined with the new high school, these two projects will provide a definite economic boost to the area.
After a complete renovation and restoration, the Touber building, Salida’s old hospital with a history dating back to 1885, opened in the Spring of 2010 with offices and meeting rooms for city departments and county agencies. Many in the area were pleased to see such an effort made to both preserve the historic building and incorporate it into everyday life. In addition the hot water line from Poncha Springs to the Salida Hot Springs Pool was replaced causing a several degree rise in the water temperature at the aquatic facility. The warmer water coupled with recent improvements made to the locker/shower facilities have made the Salida Hot Springs Pool even more of a destination for locals and tourists alike.
Cristo’s hotly contested, “Over the River” project continues to jump through the requisite hoops. Having completed an environmental impact statement and comment period, the Bureau of Land Management is expected to make a decision this spring as to whether or not the project can move forward. If approved, the project will have significant economic impact over the next three years, and establish long-term notoriety in the international art world.
In a time that is generally slow for Realtors and builders alike, I have already seen the second story go on the first house of the year, and Wes Hill & Associates has closed the largest market share, 21% or $1.3 million, year to date. Local design and build firms like, Natural Habitats are busy with clients that want to build first, second and investment homes in 2011. Plus, we’ve seen a recent rise in new businesses, predominately restaurants, in Salida. 2010 boasted the opening of both 216 Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and The Fritz Bar & Bistro (which incidently, has been hosting an incredible sushi night once a month) in Historic Downtown Salida. This year we’ve already seen the arrival of Wallbangers Sports Bar & Grill on Highway 50 across from the soon to open Hampton Inn, and February promises the opening of a new steak and seafood house, “Currents,” in downtown Salida.
With $47 million in construction projects on the horizon (both of which will benefit Salida residents for decades to come), new houses in the ground and on paper, 4 new businesses cropping up in less than a year, and a solid start to the year for Wes Hill & Associates, things can’t be all bad. I can’t help but feel like the local economy is on the upswing and I take pride in the fact that Salidans are investing in their town, their children and their future. With all this going on at the end of January it’s a little staggering to think about what will be shakin’ in June 2011. stay tuned for more!
K. Hale Chamblee


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