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 August 27, 1999

Real Estate: Greeley struggles with Rbedroom’ image

GREELEY — A drive into Greeley from the west gives the impression that the city is made mostly of plywood.
Such is the picture presented by new construction that marches steadily westward from the city center, gobbling up former farm fields. And some people in the real estate community are saying the balance between the number of new homes and the number of new businesses is getting too far out of whack.
Michael Ehler, a commercial real estate broker with The Group Inc. Real Estate in Fort Collins, but who works much of the time in Greeley, said he sees evidence every time he drives east.
“The amount of residential being developed in Greeley right now is just phenomenal,” Ehler said. “But I don’t see the proportionate amount of commercial going in. There is a real imbalance going on there.”
Greeley Planning Department numbers back up what Ehler says. The city is on a 1999 pace that could lead to a near doubling in the number of new homes built compared with the 1998 number.
By the end of July, 488 new homes had been permitted in the city, and Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce president Lyle Butler said the year-end total could reach 950. Compare that to the 535 new homes built in all of 1998.
The new-home binge is so continuous that Rich Miner, owner of Summit Homes Inc., is now out of the speculation business for the first time.
“We’ve got 13 pre-sales ahead of us,´ said Miner, who is building all over the city, but has his prime properties on the west side. “We’re not doing spec homes anymore.”
While numbers of residential rooftops in most Front Range cities quickly pull along a parallel growth in commercial building, business construction in Greeley is lagging. That has some in the Greeley business community worried.
Every step the city makes westward takes new residents — lured there by lower land and construction costs — closer to the commercial centers of Loveland and Fort Collins.
The problem will only be aggravated as retail and commercial development grows along the Interstate 25 corridor, most notably at the intersection of I-25 and U.S. Highway 34.
“That’s obviously a big factor,´ said Mark Bradley, a broker with Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. “Greeley, in a lot of ways, is still a bedroom community of Fort Collins. People here go to Fort Collins and Denver for their entertainment and shopping experiences.”
As Greeley, Loveland and fast-developing Windsor grow closer together, the race is on for businesses in all three places to reel in the new residents.
Anything to do with commercial translates to vacancy rates and investment return. Commercial vacancy rates are still higher here than in Loveland and Fort Collins.
“As that west side keeps developing, it presents an opportunity and a pitfall,” Bradley said. “There will be opportunities for Greeley businesses to grow with the homes on the west side, but Loveland and Windsor will be taking advantage of that, too.”
Butler said he was encouraged by the recent growth in residential development on the east side of the city, and said he hoped the boom there could restore some balance.
“A lot of us are excited to see what’s going on on the eastern side,” Butler said. “If that keeps up, it will go a long way toward helping downtown business.”
East-side development is mostly categorized as “affordable” housing. Miner said he and his company had seven presales on Greeley’s eastern fringe, all in the range between $99,000 and $120,000, and the new Parkview South subdivision is “one of the most affordable neighborhoods in Colorado,” according to a Planning Department official.
While commercial developers have been slower to make the investment in the city, Bradley said he saw evidence that provides some hope for a redeveloping downtown zone.
“I see the trend beginning to change,” Bradley said. “A lot of the downtown vacancies are being absorbed. The vacancy rates down there are dropping. That will continue, I hope. ` What Greeley has going for it is lower cost of land, lower costs of development, lower costs of permitting, lower costs of construction.”
Greeley community leaders hope that businesses will find, as new homeowners have, that those savings can make their investments worthwhile.

Tom Hacker can be reached at (970) 221-5400, (970) 356-1683, (800) 440-3506 or via e-mail at thacker@ncbr.com. His fax number is (970) 221-5432.

GREELEY — A drive into Greeley from the west gives the impression that the city is made mostly of plywood.
Such is the picture presented by new construction that marches steadily westward from the city center, gobbling up former farm fields. And some people in the real estate community are saying the balance between the number of new homes and the number of new businesses is getting too far out of whack.
Michael Ehler, a commercial real estate broker with The Group Inc. Real Estate in Fort Collins, but who works much of the time in Greeley, said he sees…

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