While people may disagree on exactly where the Chautauqua neighborhood boundaries lie, most will attest to the fact that the area affords a lifestyle that is largely unsurpassed even in a city where lifestyle is everything. Right now, that area is also one of the hottest real-estate markets in Boulder.
“I think people moving in here love the urban feel of the area, but also the common character of the original buildings,” said Marybeth Emerson, a broker associate at Colorado Landmark Realtors. People moving into the Chautauqua area today are not just looking at the access and views, she said; they also are coming to restore, rather than to tear down or completely remodel, these homes dating from the 1920s and ’30s.
“I think, coming off that last few years, people are paring down their lives to what they think is simple,” said Emerson, who also has expertise in historic home renovation. “It’s part of this trend that smaller is better, and they are turning more to detail sophistication” in restoring homes.
Or, put more simply:
“Smaller isn’t just better, it’s also required” by smaller lots and government regulations, noted Jon Hatch, a Chautauqua area real estate expert with Re/Max of Boulder
Chautauqua itself opened in 1898, as a deal between the city of Boulder, and the Texas Board of Regents, which wanted to establish a summer school for teachers in a cool climate. The Chautauqua era of adult education, which included plays and musical performances, was flourishing, but Boulder’s Chautauqua is one of few remaining and is one of about 25 National Historic Landmarks in Colorado.
The history reflected in Chautauqua proper, which also includes private homes and rentals owned by the Colorado Chautauqua Association, also is mirrored in the surrounding residential area. While there have been a number of large-scale renovations, many of the original smaller brick homes also remain, including many as small as 1,500 square feet and some as small as 800 square feet.
“The buyers have seen that Boulder is a great place to live, and they will come in and take a bungalow that needs a lot of work versus living a bit farther out with a lot more house,” Emerson said.
That sort of remodeling took place at a property she represents at 774 Grant St., Emerson said. The floor plan remained largely intact but the addition of south-facing windows added to the passive solar function of the home, with a sunroom with retractable sliding glass doors that allow the area to be open in the summer.
Emerson said she considers the Chautauqua neighborhood to include the areas south of Baseline Road and east of the park to perhaps 16th Street, but also areas north of Baseline, especially west of Ninth Street. On the other hand, Hatch keeps his data on lower Chautauqua, which includes everything south of Baseline to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the adjoining open space and east of the park to Broadway.
“Last year was really a tremendous year” for the neighborhood, Hatch said. “After slow markets dating back to 2008 and 2009, the number of sales in 2012 increased 50 percent,” from 16 to 24 sales, with the average home price rising from $790,000 to $863,000, he said.
“That market took a while to open up in 2012. There was only one sale in the first quarter, and that house took 130 days to sell,” he said. “In the first quarter of this year, we saw five sales, with a high of $650,000 and a low of $345,000.”
Because of the wide variety of pricing available in the area, Hatch said, it can attract clients ranging from first-time homebuyers to empty nesters with a large amount of equity looking to downsize and very affluent clients looking to upscale.
The market is opening up as prices recover, Hatch said. Today, nine homes between $1 million and $2.5 million are on the market, with another four under contract with prices ranging from $700,000 to $3.5 million.
While homes may go for as little as $350,000, that doesn’t buy a lot of square footage, with sales going as high as $640 per square foot. Still, both Hatch and Emerson said restoring the smaller bungalows is attractive to a growing list of buyers.
“Everything exploded in the first quarter of this year,” Emerson said. Also exploding is the number of homebuyers looking to restore with original building materials, even going down to the brick, doors, flooring and nuts of bolts of the building era.
“Posts and columns are big, because they have so much character, and so do sinks and tubs,” Emerson said. “In a modern bathroom, it can create a nice blend of character with old-world qualities.”