TELLURIDE – After fielding over 25 phone calls and meeting with more than a dozen people over the course of several months, in the end only two parties actually bid on the modular building formerly located on Colorado Ave., just off South Davis St., that housed the Telluride Visitor’s Center when it went to auction this fall.
As a result, its former owner, Marketing Telluride Inc., received $8,000 from local developer Joe Waller, who cast the highest bid for the building purchased by an MTI predecessor organization, Telluride Mountain Village Visitor Services, Inc., for a reported $180,000 nearly a decade ago.
“People were interested but they didn’t realize they would have to pay for site work and to move the building,” said MTI Chief Executive Officer Scott McQuade, describing roughly $50,000 in additional costs to clean and remediate the site and to relocate the building within town limits with which the building came burdened.
“It became cost-prohibitive,” he said, noting that moving the building any distance outside of town limits would have required breaking the two-story building into two modules at a cost upwards of $70,000, not including the site remediation costs.
The Telluride Town Council entered into a lease agreement with TMVVS in August 2002, in which it agreed to charge the marketing organization a base rent of $1 a year on what was largely town right-of-way in order for the organization to locate a new facility there.
In March 2003 the town amended that lease agreement, identifying the Telluride and Mountain Village Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. as the substitute lessee for TMVVS, and amending the lease term for seven years from the date on which a Certificate of Occupancy for the proposed facility was issued.
Waller arranged to move the building off the town-owned site in time to meet the seven-year lease deadline (assumed by MTI in 2005 as the successor to the TMVCVB), but it sat along the Highway 145 Spur for several weeks while its final location in Butcher Creek underwent excavation and foundation work.
There it is destined to become a long-term, free-market rental property, but not before a substantial sum is invested to turn the former offices into a 2,400 square foot home with three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms.
“Eight thousand dollars is a lot of value for the building, but once you start adding things up, it’s going to be $250,000 to turn it into a single family home,” said Waller, estimating the building will be habitable in about four months.
“Sometimes free is not free.”
That said, Waller confirmed that he donated the building’s handicap elevator back to the Town of Telluride (for likely use at its Gold Run Day Care facility), and expects to take a tax credit for it.
The deal has sparked some surprise among those around town with longer memories.
Because MTI is largely dependant on lodging tax collections for the bulk of its income, and also receives some revenue from Telluride and Mountain Village business license fees, some resent the price for which the building ultimately sold, viewing it as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
But another way of looking at it is that over the course of those seven years MTI and its predecessors saved on the price of rent.
“We looked at our ability to actually purchase an asset and write off the interest instead of just paying rent to a landlord, so that was the logic behind that,” said former TMVCVB president Rick Houston, of the original purchase decision.
Others recall an expectation that the building would eventually go for affordable employee housing upon the expiration of the lease, but Houston remembered otherwise.
“Affordable housing was one aspect of what the potential would be, but there was certainly no commitment,” he said.
According to Houston, the MTI predecessor organization’s board had also thought the building might be moved out to Lawson Hill or Society Turn, in order to capture tourist traffic along the highway.
“It could be affordable housing, but we didn’t envision it being non-affordable housing,” he said.
In fact, McQuade worked for some time to find a deed-restricted lot to which MTI might move the building, approaching both the Town of Telluride and San Miguel County about the possibility of acquiring a lot in their joint Gold Run development before construction began there.
The building wasn’t seen as a good fit for the development, and the request was denied.
Neither did other potential locations pan out.
Despite an extensive search, “We were kind of left with having to fit a square peg in a round hole,” said McQuade.
“I was trying very hard to find a home for it,” he continued. “It wasn’t for lack of looking.”
McQuade noted that the building was first advertised for sale in April. “We got several proposals,” he said. “Everyone was happy to take it away, but no-one was happy to pay for it.”
Eventually, with time running out, the building went to auction, which, too, was publicly advertised, he said.
“My task was to figure out something to do with this building,” said McQuade. “We were fortunate that someone actually wanted it.”
If not, MTI would have been liable to either move or demolish the building and remediate the site, facing an additional penalty if the work was not completed by its early November deadline.
“The good news is that it wasn’t hauled off in a dumpster, it was actually reused,” McQuade said.