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Even the recession can't rain on the Denver Parade of Homes

Like the rest of us, Colorado's luxury-home builders have had to tighten their hand-stitched, imported leather belts in order to make ends meet. And so the Parade of Homes, an annual gawkfest for looky-loos featuring the most opulent creations that developers have to offer, is spreading the wealth — and changing its format after 23 years, with voyeurs now parading past the homes on the 2009 Denver Luxury Home Tour.

The reason: It's much more difficult financially to build multimillion-dollar mansions on speculation all in one place, which rules out the kind of developments that used to host the Parade of Homes. (Paul Lambert, developer of the $4.1 million Villa Bellagio in the 2002 Parade — see "Viva Las Villa!," October 3, 2002 — later was convicted of felony theft, while several megahomes in the 2007 Southshore Parade ended up in foreclosure.) And so the Homebuilders Association of Metro Denver, which puts on the event, is taking it on the road this year, weekends through July 5, with stops at 27 ginormous mansions that all offer their own cost-saving measures.

First stop: a "rustic" $2.75 million home in Evergreen featuring 120 tons of natural stone, five fireplaces, four bedrooms and seven bathrooms. Thankfully, the 7,500-square-foot castle also includes a geothermal heating system, meaning the owner can save money on utility bills (approximately $860 per month).

In Greenwood Village, a $2.65 million European-style mansion offers 6,499 square feet of ways to soothe your monetary worries: airy, two-story vaulted ceilings and a matching fireplace to put you at ease, while the jetted tub melts away stress. Plus, the walk-in closet has a built-in ironing center so you can save on dry-cleaning bills.

For a little extra income in these tough times, a $2.1 million, 8,300-square-foot Castle Rock chateau includes a guest house on its one-acre grounds — perfect to rent out to people who are similarly down on their luck but enjoy mountain views as much as you do.

Need to downsize your DTC offices? A $1.8 Parker monster has a couple of ways to impress clients: a soaring foyer with a wrought-iron chandelier and travertine flooring, and a home office with custom woodwork and burnished walnut floors.

A $2 million Spanish continental home in the Crestmoor neighborhood features a snowmelt system in the driveway (no more paying that service to shovel). But its most important attribute is a 600-bottle wine cellar to ease the pain of a crashing market.

Big screen time: Longtime bit-part actor Barron Christian is pretty cryptic about his past; he intimates a connection to British royalty and hints at involvement with the KGB, military escorts, a Los Angeles mansion and John Lennon. But Christian, who lives in Golden, is effusive about his small role in Imagine That, an Eddie Murphy movie that was largely shot in Denver in 2007 and debuts nationwide on Friday.

Murphy plays a businessman whose daughter appears to get advice on the stock market from invisible princesses. Shooting locations included LoDo, Confluence Park and the Brown Palace Hotel, where Christian's big scene with Murphy and Thomas Haden Church was filmed at the Palace Arms.

Christian describes Murphy as "a poised gentleman. He made me feel on his level, even though I'm several notches below that." For more of Kiernan Maletsky's interview, log on to blogs.westword.com/latestword.

Scene and herd: The Congress for the New Urbanism is holding its annual conference in Denver June 10-14, complete with bus tours of Belmar, Stapleton, Highland Gardens Village and other metro-area urbanist enclaves.

But how do you judge walkable, neighborhood-based developments? Is it by the wraparound porches, the number of Starbucks nearby, the existence of a locally owned restaurant? Find out this week at westword.com as we rate the new-urbanist landscape with a critical eye and a good pair of sneakers.

 
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