| The boulevard of East Third
Avenue has long been attractive to homebuyers. However,
interest of prospective homeowners has yet to match some
price tags that are reaching into the multimillions./Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
With multimillion-dollar asking prices becoming
more common, the cost of real estate along East Third Avenue
appears to be sky-rocketing beyond a still hot Durango market.
However, appearances can be deceiving, according to local Realtors,
and asking prices do not always lead to money and property changing
East Third Avenue, Durango’s boulevard, has been the
city’s premier street since its creation in the late 1800s.
The street boasts a grassy, treed median, many of Durango’s
ornate churches and a number of its large, historic Victorian
“The boulevard, as it’s referred to, was the premier
street in Durango when it was created,” says City Planner
However, Hoch notes that East Third is home to incredibly diverse
housing types. The avenue’s historic qualities led to
a successful push, largely by boulevard residents in the 1980s,
to create a local historic district and provide a greater degree
of protection to the structures. In the late 1990s, boulevard
historic district guidelines were drafted, and the Neighborhood
Boulevard Association was formed. Since that time, the guidelines
have influenced any changes to the face of the avenue, and the
association has fought hard to maintain the thoroughfare character.
“The city recognizes Third Avenue as a valuable resource
and has attempted over the years to help protect that resource,”
That resource includes much more than large Victorians, according
to Hoch. The historic preservation guidelines for the street
outline 14 different housing types along the avenue’s
12 blocks. These range from mining shacks that were hauled to
Durango from New Mexico to the elaborate Hood Mortuary building,
a former mansion. “What’s interesting is that the
way Third Avenue has evolved is that it has a diverse mix of
housing types and income levels,” Hoch says.
A recent evolution on the historic street has taken place among
real estate prices, with cost per square foot outstripping nearby
and comparable neighborhoods and some of the highest asking
prices in La Plata County appearing on signs in front of homes.
“Exclusivity is a matter of perspective,” Hoch
says. “But the prices of homes on the boulevard have really
increased and they tend to be higher than elsewhere in town.”
|One of many upper echelon
homes for sale on East Third Avenue. Only two homes listed
by realtors on the street have sold in 2003. Both were smaller
homes priced under $300,000. Two more homes priced under
$500,000 are currently
under contract./Photo by Ben Eng.
Currently, nine East Third homes are listed for sale with local
real estate brokers in addition to a handful of homes for sale
by owners. Three of the listed homes have prices exceeding $1
million. The most expensive home on the street – and inside
city limits – is now advertised for $2.75 million. The
home of Carol Withers, president of the Neighborhood Boulevard
Association, is currently listed at $2.25 million. She and her
husband, Dr. John Withers, moved to a smaller home down the
street recently. Withers acknowledges that the price is high
but argues that the value of East Third Avenue has risen.
“I’ve heard the old-timers talking about their
amazement at the prices,” she says. “My take on
it is that people are starting to see East Third for its worth.”
Withers adds: “I think one of the things that makes it
attractive to a prospective buyer is the same thing that’s
annoying to many of us – the historic preservation standards.
You know you’re not going to have anything strange coming
in next door. You’re not going to see a scrape.”
Withers says that the Neighborhood Boulevard Association, which
she has headed for the last two years, has fought to maintain
this integrity. She cites efforts to block a boutique hotel,
prevent the library from moving into the Mason Center site and
most recently, prevent the Smiley Building from expanding its
charter to allow professional offices and a cafE9.
“I keep thinking each year that we’ve encountered
every possible threat, but each year a new threat to the integrity
of the neighborhood pops up,” Withers says. “We
want to keep it residential. It’s a wonderful place to
Withers also approves of the recent push by the Durango Historic
Preservation Board to clean up neglected homes on the boulevard.
“Derelict housing is not whether you have pretty flowers
in your front yard, it’s a question of neglect,”
she said. “Would I like to see everybody having a $700,000
house on the boulevard? No. But I would like to see some upkeep.”
While property values on East Third Avenue now exceed other
areas of Durango, they have not yet jumped into the multimillion
dollar levels that several homes are reaching for, according
to local Realtors.
John Wells, broker-owner of the Wells Group, says that while
there is a distinct appeal to East Third, it is not as appealing
as some price tags would suggest. “To date, I don’t
think we’ve seen anything sell for over $1 million, although
there are currently three homes priced at or over that on Third
Avenue,” he said.
Wells noted that a property’s value is quite simply dictated
by what a buyer will pay for it. In the case of the three homes
exceeding $1 million, Wells credited the luxury of being able
to wait and see for the high price tags.
“Those three homes have been placed on the market at
a very special price, and that special buyer hasn’t materialized,”
Wells noted that only two homes have sold on East Third Avenue
this year, and they were smaller structures priced under $300,000.
Two more homes priced under $500,000 also are currently under
Gina Piccoli, broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Heritage House
Realtors, agrees that East Third Avenue is one of Durango’s
most attractive neighborhoods. “Third Avenue has a bonus
attached to it,” she said. “It’s considered
to be a desirable street, especially for people who come here
from out of town because of its trees and the boulevard.”
However, Piccoli pointed to the lack of sales of the higher
priced homes on East Third as an indication of over-pricing.
“There might have been a perception by some of the property
owners that their properties were worth more than they are,”
she says. “As a result, they haven’t sold.”
However, Piccoli is quick to add that in the brisk Durango
market, it does not mean that they will not sell. It’s
simply a question of when. “There’s always a buyer
for everything,” she says. “The question is, ‘When
will that buyer come in?’”