Dale Brown is a real estate agent operating out of Kellogg, Idaho.
Q: So, is it really a new day here in Kellogg?
A: A totally new day. We thought in 1990, when the gondola would open, we would have this robust growth within about five years. It’s taken fifteen instead, due to some problems we had with the mountain and then selling the mountain. It took Eagle Crest awhile to get geared up, to decide what they wanted to do. And since they’ve made their announcement, things have really taken off, and they’ve broken ground and everything.
Q: So, is Eagle Crest, Inc., the key to this valley?
A: The whole key is Eagle Crest. They have the ability, the know-how and experience in making golf developments workm and they are using that same expertise to do the mountain. Every project they have done has been done very well and very well accepted and quality work, and we’re seeing the same thing here with the condos they are building. And they have just put enough money of their own into the community that people are believing. And you will find out if you haven’t already, they sold out the 68 condo units in three days at a very good price,which is just totally amazing to most of us here, but it happened.
"We’d been in a downturn for a few years, and it turned around in 2004 and is going rapidly upwards."
To give you an example of how big that 68 units is, the sale price on the 68 units represented about 4% of the assessed value of the property in Shoshone County, that one development. So it’s making a major impact. It is driving prices up, but prices needed to come up a little bit, anyway. We’ve been depressed so long. We’d been in a downturn for a few years, and it turned around in 2004 and is going rapidly upwards.
Q: Give us an example of the housing prices.
A: The typical miner’s house, as we call it, the workman’s house here in 2003 would have sold for about $45,000.00. In 2004 the same house was about $60,000.00; and this year they are $75 to $80,000.00, if you can find one.
The commercial real estate is the same way. We’ve seen prices rise dramatically on any of the commercial property that is available, in some instances by 2-300%! So, it’s been very favorable from the real estate aspect. What is more favorable are the businesses that are coming in; and people are really thinking about taking some of these buildings and doing something with them; and I think we’ll see more and more over the next few months.
Q: How big is the new bike path, the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, to this area?
A: Besides Silver Mountain, our big asset that we just got last year was the trail, the 72 mile bike and pedestrian trail. The State Park Department figures that about 100,000 people or so were on it last summer, and it didn’t open until the middle of June and no advertising really on it. This year we’re expecting many, many more,and we feel the trail will be more of an attraction than Silver Mountain in the long run, and will bring in more people.
Q: Is the entire valley turning a corner?
A: All the way, one end of the valley to the other. On the east end of the valley, on the Montana line, we have Lookout Ski area. They are also in an expansion mode. Last year they opened a new trail, a new chairlift, which was the first real improvement in probably 50 years; and they doubled the number of skiers in this lousy winter of snow. They have expansion plans for a further chairlift to go up the north face of the next mountain, and there’s a beautiful bowl up there, so they’re attracting a lot more people to Lookout.
"We feel the trail of the Coeur d'Alenes will be more of an attraction than Silver Mountain in the long run, and will bring in more people."
That has caused some sales in the little town of Mullin up there. Real estate prices have started going up there, and we’ve sold some commercial property up there. People are opening up buildings that have been vacant for years. It seems the whole valley, Wallace is booming now, too, all the way through. And on the west end of the valley, we’re getting more and more people coming over from Coeur d’Alene and commuting to Coeur d’Alene to work. So the whole thing, one end to the other, is moving well.
Q: Just how bad were things before this boom?
A: When I got here in 1989, the building down the street here had a sign on it, “Rent for $200.00 a month.” It sat vacant for years. Almost everything was shuttered up. My wife and I bought a building here, and she opened a gift shop and book store. I went into real estate, and as I said before, we thought we’d have five years, and things would be really humming, and for three years they were picking up every year, and then it turned around again, when they made the announcement that the mountain was going to sell. Everybody just stopped investing because they didn’t know what was going to happen with it.
I saw Park City and Breckenridge in the 60’s and skied them much later, and I saw what a ski area could do to a place that had good snow, a good ski area, and we have wonderful snow here. It’s very dry powder snow, it’s fantastic skiing; and for old fat fellows like me, it’s only 6200 feet at the top; so you don’t have the high altitude problems you have in Utah and Colorado but the same quality of snow.
So it was pretty bleak, but the outlook in my mind was really good, and we came in, and we started. We got here in July, and in October we started the project to redo the streets and sidewalks uptown; and all that took us five years to do. But with the help of the state and federal government agencies, we were able to come up with the money to do it, and it’s much, much nicer than it was in ’89. A lot of the sidewalks were broken, and it was really a mess.
Q: What’s with the Alpine look in the downtown area?
A: That was before I got here. They did that about 1987. A lot of the business people were looking for something to do. Mining would have been the reasonable theme, you would have expected, but Wallace is 12 miles up the road, and it’s a mining theme. The whole town is on the National Historic Register, and the people here didn’t feel like two mining towns right together would attract very well.
So they looked around for a theme, and the consultants who did Silver Mountain indicated that a themed town would be better than a town that wasn’t themed; so a group of them, I think they had a couple of busloads went over to Leavenworth, looked at that and came back and decided they wanted to do the Alpine theme. They put it in the ordinance. They didn’t do it quite right, so people bought buildings, and they didn’t have to fix them up, so it didn’t work as well as it should have. I think basically now that has been dropped, so at this point they’re going to go back to a mining theme. It was an experiment. It just didn’t work.
Q: Well, it is a mining community.
A: That’s right. I had a miner tell me, when they were pouring the foundation down at the gondola, he bet me a hundred bucks that it would never run. Then he bet me another hundred that Dwayne Hagadone would own it within a year, so I made a couple of hundred bucks off him; but he was a miner that was sure it couldn’t happen here. Mining was the key to the future. And it sure is nice seeing $7.00 silver and seeing at least the Lucky Friday and the Galena working and hiring more people.