Tiny Houses Arrive in America’s Highest City
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
“Oh, they’re sooo cute!”
Yes, even in America’s tallest city, the smallest of homes do not go unnoticed. So when the tiny houses started rolling into town last summer, tongues started wagging. These transportable miniatures are impressive from a design perspective, igniting a nationwide craze of small-space living that doesn’t seem to be fading away any time soon. Especially among millennials, who not only embrace a more minimalist, mobile lifestyle but see tiny homes as a pathway to homeownership, and the answer to Leadville’s affordable housing crunch. But could that be too much to hope for? Find out in this Tiny House Leadville report from Leadville Today.
Small Beginnings in High Places
“When I came up to Leadville and turned the bend onto Harrison Avenue, I was like ‘Wow, this is great’” said Jeremy Ricci, owner of Tiny House Leadville. “It’s like all of a sudden I got transported back to the Wild West.” By the time he got to the southern end of Leadville’s main drag and turned onto W. 2nd Street, seeing the former RV Corral for the first time, he was hooked. It was February 2018 and Ricci was headed to an annual real estate conference in Snowmass. This year, he decided to extend his Colorado trip to scout for a possible mountain location for his next tiny house venture.
“I knocked on Rudy’s door at 2:30, and by 5:30 we were sitting down, having dinner, and signing a contract,” says Ricci concerning the quick sale. Rudy, of course, is Rudy Klucik former owner of the Leadville RV Corral, who provided hospitality and a place to park for many travelers, laborers, and ultra-endurance athletes for years. The business is located at 135 W. 2nd Street and takes up most of the first-hundred block, tucked in behind Earl’s dispensary, and across the street the historic Pastime Bar & Café.
Often referred to as Old State Street, this area made up the heart of Leadville’s former Red Light District, and at one point, was the home to 64 saloons and countless bordellos. Today, the area is more residential than rowdy, and its close proximity to downtown businesses hit all the right marks for Ricci.
And he should know because his first “tiny” development is in a pretty sweet spot as well. Located less than one mile from the pristine Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Fla., Tiny House Siesta features 11 miniature vacation units in an array of pastel colors and tropical designs. In October 2016, Ricci acquired the sliver of an old RV park in the popular beach resort town. Since then, he has slowly phased out the mobile homes on the property, replacing them with tiny houses ranging in size from 220 to 360 square feet, with some sleeping up to six people.
A Tiny Dream in Leadville
Fortunately for both the Leadville and Florida properties, the zoning was just right. In fact, for any tiny house community, it has to be it.
According to Lake County Building and Land Use Director Paul Clarkson while the classic assumption may be that these tiny domiciles are considered houses, they actually fall into the RV category. And that classification can restrict where they can be placed when it comes to local planning & zoning regulations.
Fortunately for Ricci, both locations were already categorized as pre-existing, non-conforming RV parks, “so we didn’t have to go through any of the sizeable challenges a developer would if they were starting the process from stage one,” he explained.
The former RV Corral maintained 33 RV spots and 10 tent sites. While the tents will be phased out, the remaining spaces will be divided into three groups: tiny house vacation rentals, tiny house long-term residents and the RVers, who will still come and go. At present, there are six tiny homes on site now. One of those is occupied by Ryan and Trish Kukulka from Ohio, who manage the Leadville facility.
For Ricci, his first tiny house project led to the real estate developer becoming a tiny house builder as well. In fact, it’s his home base in Bucks County, Pa. that brings in some of the unique Amish craftsmanship that makes these miniatures extra marvelous. Another noteworthy design aspect of Tiny House Leadville involves a group of students from a Kansas high school who built the tiny house (on-site) Aspen model as part of a vocational training program, instructing students on construction and design. This past summer, Ricci met the students to pick up the new build and dropped off an empty trailer for them to construct the next project. And this one sounds like a Leadville beauty!
This winter, the Kansas students will design and build their tiny house to mimic Leadville architecture. The Cloud City homage is expected to arrive in the tiny house neighborhood next May. And for readers who think this idea might translate well locally, Ricci expressed he’d be thrilled to discuss such future projects with the local schools/students. Could Leadville students solve the housing crisis by building their teachers’ tiny houses in the new high school woodshop?!
Tiny House Leadville Video
Tiny House Living
So how many square feet is the typical tiny house?
“We measure them in square inches,” jokes Ricci about the square footage of these tiny domiciles. But truth be told, the smallest that Ricci has built is 135 square feet (!) and the largest is located at Tiny House Leadville. The Margarita measures 33’ x 8.5’ and includes a queen-sized bunk bed, sleeping up to five people in all. Probably five very close people!
Because even the biggest, small-space enthusiast encourages new fans to experience down-sized living firsthand before the romantic notion of leaving-it-all-behind,” inspires a full-time commitment. Tiny House Leadville can provide that lifestyle experience. And in Leadville, the interest is growing. So what would it take to start a tiny house development in Lake County?
“The Lake County zoning currently doesn’t allow any dwelling unit to be constructed that is under 600 sq. ft.,” explained Clarkson in an email to Leadville Today, adding “tiny houses” as they are classically defined cannot comply with the current building codes.
That said, he also concurred that a “tiny home” community is a possibility in Leadville, however “it would have to be one that ‘exempts’ itself from the present local standards.
“No one’s asked,” wrote Land Use Director Clarkson. “My office occasionally entertains questions about “tiny houses” but not very many and lately, even less. We get more questions about backcountry cabins and yurts.”
Yet still, the craze does not seem to be fading away. And as Leadvillites see more of the miniature domiciles – 22 when all is said and done for Tiny House Leadville – then maybe the smallest of dreams – home ownership and simple living – will grow beyond Old State Street.
Until then check out the new neighbors and stay tuned for more updates on this story. Tiny House Leadville is owned and operated by Jeremy Ricci who can be reached at 215-344-1100. Or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with them on their social media platforms.