Santa Fé Blues

Brief by Central Staff

Tourism – October 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

Is the crash coming? Pinched tourist flows and declining real-estate prices?

What goes up must go down, and a recent New York Times story about Santa Fé indicates that the city may have already hit the top of this cycle, with a downward slide before it.

“For many residents, 1995 has not been the best of years. After soaring throughout the decade with an influx of newcomers, the real-estate market has taken a dive,” observes the writer, George Johnson.

Housing sales declined from 266 in the first quarter of 1994 to 188 in the first quarter of 1995, and whereas there were no vacant apartments in the plaza area in 1993, now the vacancy rate is 10.9 percent.

Tourism has declined too: “One of the most arresting sights of the summer was the unusually large number of neon `vacancy’ signs lighting Cerrillos Road.”

Cris Moore, who serves on the city council, noted that “no place stays the hot place to visit forever.” In 1992, readers of the upscale magazine Conde Nast Traveler proclaimed Santa Fé the Number One Tourist Destination in the World. Now it’s slipped to No. 9, behind San Francisco, Rome, Vienna, and the like.

Why the decline? Moore said that “The mistake we’ve made is building an economy that depends so much on the wealthy.”

The article concludes: “The possibility remains that as Santa Fé grows from a town into a city, it is inevitably losing some of its only real commodity, its charm.”

Meanwhile, up here in the northern part of the old Spanish empire, many merchants were complaining that 1995 hasn’t been as good as 1994.

However, Colorado’s mountain highways continue to carry record traffic. A one-hour record for traffic through the Eisenhower Tunnel was set on Labor Day weekend, and the Colorado Department of Transportation reported an increase of almost 25 percent since 1990 on U.S. 285 south of Buena Vista.

Closer to civilization on 285, Labor Day weekend saw two-hour congestion between Jefferson and Conifer, with a stop-and-go jam north of Pine Junction.

“Just think, it’s almost time for aspen viewing,” commented the Park County Republican, which also thanked Summit County for its assistance in creating the jam.

It seems that a radio station there broadcast that Interstate 70 had jammed so that the one-hour trip to Denver was four hours, and so motorists were encouraged to take Colo. 9 over Hoosier Pass to Fairplay and then U.S. 285 to Denver.

Such a deal. Summit County plucks the tourists, and then exports the traffic jam to Park County. But maybe there’s a lesson in this for those who think a four-lane U.S. 50 would solve anything — no matter how big the road, traffic expands to overflow it.