Sunrise building homes with a Garden view

Saul Torres, a framer with Maya Construction, installs the subfloor on a new home at Cathedral Ridge.

Sunrise Company, which bought the Garden of the Gods Club in 2007, is selling 86 home sites around the club, including five luxury spec homes south of the club on the ridge overlooking the Garden of the Gods.

The homes will be the first new residential development in the upscale area in years, and while no one doubts the attractive value of the properties because of its scenic views and golf club amenities, some question whether now is the best time to be selling prime residential real estate.

Home prices will start at $400,000 and climb beyond $1 million for homes on the ridge that will have a view similar to what can be seen from the Garden of the Gods visitors’ center.

“It’s a spectacular piece of land,” said Tom Schmidt, a broker with Broadmoor Properties and part owner of Sunrise.

The 86 lots are just the beginning of a long-term development plan that could result in 600 homes on Garden of the Gods Club property.

The five spec homes, a term given to unrequested homes built under the speculation that they’ll sell for a profit, are on a part of club land outside of the gated Kissing Camels community called Cathedral Ridge, where the club has released 44 lots.

Other new homes will replace older rental cottages in a section of the gated Kissing Camels subdivision called Signature Point, which is adjacent to the club’s 27-hole golf course. The club’s least expensive homes will be located inside the gate at Red Rock Points 2 and 3.

Schmidt brokered the deal in which Sunrise purchased the development area from the Hill family, who founded the Garden of the Gods Club in 1951 and used it as a summer getaway and ultra-exclusive country club.

This was the first existing property the company, known for developing golf courses and luxury homes from scratch, had ever invested in.

Sunrise has built more than 20 golf courses, two luxury resort hotels and 12,000 homes.

But the Garden of the Gods, with its spectacular views was such an attractive opportunity that it enticed Sunrise to do something a little different and move into an existing development.

Even though there are more than 500 homes in the Kissing Camels gated subdivision, the area is still sparsely developed, mostly rolling hills dotted with native shrubbery and wildlife.

“It was such a great piece of land,” Schmidt said. “But it was not the best time to buy, that’s for sure.”

The real estate market bottomed out shortly after Sunrise bought the club and development plans were put on hold.

Sunrise has focused on building club membership for the last four years and is now ready to start on its development plans.

“I think the economy is turning around and now is a good time to start this,” said Clay Meininger, general manager of the club. “We’ve been very successful with new memberships and a lot of our new members are interested in the real estate opportunities.”

The purchase of a home comes with a club membership valued between $1,000 and $12,500.

The club is starting with a limited release of properties, said Kristi Meacham, a real estate sales associate for the club, because the market is still relatively soft and the infrastructure for new neighborhood development is costly.

Ina Kay “Ike” Padgett, a Realtor with The Real Estate Network, has lived in the Kissing Camels neighborhood since 1978 and said she would be surprised if the club’s new real estate offerings go flying off the shelves.

“I think the timing was a little off,” Padgett said. “It’s just not a good time to move a whole bunch of property.”

She said the Cathedral Ridge properties lose some of their appeal because they’re not inside of the Kissing Camel’s gates, which is a big part of the neighborhood’s appeal for most of her clients. And she wonders if the Signature Point properties inside the gate will be priced too high. Those homes range in price from $534,000 to $1.1 million.

Bill Hurt, broker owner of ERA Shields, also lives in the Kissing Camels neighborhood. He said he does expect the neighborhood to be successful.

“There’s just no competition for this kind of real estate right now,” Hurt said. “You can go up to Flying Horse. That’s probably the only thing that comes close in terms of amenities. But it’s way up north. It’s not right in town.”

He said west side real estate sales are strong compared to the rest of Colorado Springs, especially in higher-end properties.

“The market in that over-$500,000 range is not very deep,” Hurt said. “But Sunrise has obviously done their homework. And they’re not afraid to spend money. And in this market I think that puts them in a unique position.”

Five spec homes ranging from $496,000 to just over $1 million is no small commitment.

And so far it’s paying off, Schmidt said. “Of course, it never goes fast enough.”

The opportunity to own a home with views of Garden of the Gods was an opportunity Gwen Longstaff couldn’t pass up.

She contracted to buy the first property on Cathedral Ridge earlier this month. She is buying a 3,151-square-foot French-style ranch home priced at $496,000 and plans to move into it in November.

She’s thrilled with her purchase and while she’d love to have neighbors before the winter hits, she’s ecstatic about being the first owner on the ridge.

“The views, oh my gosh,” Longstaff said. “When I stand out there on that ridge I can see God’s beauty radiating from every direction.”

Longstaff isn’t the only buyer.

Schmidt has resold four of eight lots that custom homebuilder Gary Gergoire purchased in 2007. Gregoire is hoping to build for the new owners, Schmidt said. The premium lots Gregoire bought are each 1 acre and range in price from the high-$500,000 range to almost $900,000.

“That’s an expensive lot,” Schmidt said.

Some are buying property and holding on to it, and others are meeting with architects and starting the planning process for building grand homes overlooking the garden.

The club also has several reservations for properties in its 17-home Signature Point development, Schmidt said.

He said he expects the full build-out at the club to take 10 to 12 years, up from the initial estimate of eight to 10 when Sunrise purchased the property.

“At this point,” Hurt said, “I wouldn’t bet against Sunrise.”