At the corner between Millicent Rogers and Upper Ranchitos Road, a new housing development is rising. It's called La Isla de Taos, and it will see the construction of up to 15 one-level, free-standing condominium homes on a 9.8-acre parcel of a 21-acre property. Though it is a small development in terms of units, it's one of the largest residential developments in Taos County since the Great Recession of 2008.
"These kinds of requests have slowed down because of the market," Taos County planner Rudy Perea said, adding that the only other major recent residential development in the county is the massive planned Beausoleil Taos project out between Arroyo Hondo and Arroyo Seco. By contrast, that development's minimum lot size is 10 acres.
"It's really filling a need because inventory is so low," Lisa Davis said, who is the Berkshire Hathaway broker in charge of selling La Isla de Taos' new properties. "We're trying to keep the houses affordable at a good price."
La Isla de Taos offers three models - a 1,759-square-foot design with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a one-car garage; another 1,759-square-foot design with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage; and a 2,000-square-foot model with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. The listed prices for the three models are $425,000, $450,000 and $475,000, respectively.
"They're good value because they'll be new," Davis said, explaining that the housing prices were right in line with the general market trends in Taos that she's observed over the years. Davis said she expected a mix of full- and part-time residents, including renters.
Just outside the town of Taos limits, the development also borders the Río Lucero, a tributary of the Río Pueblo de Taos. Developers broke ground on the project July 13 and five lots are currently ready for sale; two are already in the process of being sold. The next 10 lots should be available in 2018. For the most part, houses will be built as they are sold.
Taos Style Builders will perform most of the construction. The Lamy, New Mexico-based firm has been working on residential and commercial buildings in the region for around 15 years. In the past, Taos Style Builders has been a part of the Millicent Rogers Museum's renovation about six years ago and was one of the contractors that worked on Mondo Italiano's new location near Walmart on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. Though it is not Taos Style Builders' first subdivision project, it is the firm's first subdivision in Taos.
"We've been planning [La Isla de Taos] for about eight years," Art Mares of Taos Style Builders said. The property was first acquired by a development company run by Mares' cousin, Ben Mares, in 2008, but the market crash caused them to delay the project until now.
"It's the development that's the hardest part," Mares added, explaining that the paperwork necessary for building a subdivision takes much longer than it actually takes to build.
The houses will be built in a "modern" Pueblo style and include kiva fireplaces, radiant floor heat and high ceilings.
"They have a warm and contemporary edge to them," Davis said.
Mares characterized the architectural style of the project much like the "Pueblo Revival" style that dominates most of Taos, but with square beams instead of round vigas, squared-off edges and Shaker-style cabinets.
"When you have vigas, they have to be vacuumed," Davis added, explaining that the homes were specifically designed for the ease of use of its residents.
Additionally, the houses will frame a central meadow area that will serve as a private park for residents. Future residents will also have access to a streamside walking path along the site's 4.5-acre bosque, a small forested area around the Río Lucero.
"That's community for the whole site," Mares said, describing the intent behind the planned park.
Individual homes will be situated on the site to maximize their view of the mountains and surrounding landscape. To support the development, a service road called La Isla Lane is planned to be built alongside Millicent Rogers and Upper Ranchitos Road. El Prado Water & Sanitation and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative will provide the houses' utilities.
Davis predicted a pleasant experience for the future residents of La Isla de Taos. "It should just be a nice lifestyle," she said.