Who Can Save Ketchum?
An evolving town races to define itself
PHOTOGRAPHY Tal Roberts
(page 2 of 3)
In today’s interconnected America, Ketchum is an island no longer. The issues that shape local development have been handed down by larger national trends. The story is by now familiar. In the past fifteen years, a surging economy (and an all-consuming housing bubble) generated unprecedented wealth, and the Valley’s second homes grew in both number and scale. People still come to Ketchum to get away from it all. They just stay in mansions when they do.
Through the changes, few complained. A boomtown by nature, Ketchum knew what to do with a sudden influx of cash. Local developers, builders, architects, real estate agents, interior designers—i.e., the local economy—were keen to the windfall. By 2006, when a 10,000-square-foot mansion north of Ketchum was, relatively speaking, not that big, the average home price in the area had reached $2.4 million.
George Kirk thinks he has a solution. He wants a more sustainable, year-round community of full-time residents. His vision centers on high-density development. Smaller homes on smaller plots will lower housing prices, which in turn will entice young families and small businesses to move in.
“What’s the largest impediment to affordable housing?” Kirk asked. “It’s the high cost of land.” Decrease the space between them and home prices will drop, triggering a domino effect of common-good.
Kirk moved to central Idaho from San Diego in 1988, and in 1997 he founded The Kirk Group, a real estate investment and development company. He has since been the lead developer on a number of prominent commercial and business projects, including the Smith Optics building on Lewis Street in Ketchum and the Airport West business park in Hailey.