The thriving area in southeast Denver has a small-town feel.
Wellshire resident Jeff Shoemaker has no intentions of moving out of his bucolic Denver neighborhood — ever.
Shoemaker has deep roots in the southeastern section of Denver, a neighborhood tucked behind the roaring Colorado Boulevard corridor.
"It's a great mix of old homes and new homes like ours, longtime residents and new residents, old and young," Shoemaker said. "There is the best of both the small town and yet an in-the-city neighborhood."
That neighborhood, within a tiny distance of Observatory Park, Eisenhower Park and the Wellshire Municipal Golf Course, offers plenty for the suburban-minded homeowner.
Expansive lots. Low crime rates. Some of the widest streets one will find in Denver. And prices in the area are solid — and climbing.
Stephen Holben, president and owner of Denver-based Holben Building Corp., said Wellshire homes appreciated 5.3 percent last year and dozens of homes and townhouses are in various stages of planning or completion.
The neighborhood wasn't always bustling with home activity — or young children.
Shoemaker said Wellshire took a hit during the '80s when nearby Slavens Elementary School closed temporarily due primarily to a shortage of school-age children in the area. When the school reopened in the mid-'90s, the area's demographics shifted.
Today, Shoemaker said, roughly three out of every four Wellshire homeowners are in their 30s, with school-age children.
The Slavens school is a key selling point for Wellshire, said Denver Realtor Bill Rittner, former president of the Wellshire Homeowners Association.
Parents are attracted to the school's healthy test scores and actively fundraise to provide school equipment and other vital supplies, Rittner said.
Wellshire consisted mostly of ranch-style brick homes built primarily in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But drive around the neighborhood now and those homes are being crowded out by renovated parcels.
"The ranches are being torn down and million-dollar properties are being constructed," he said. "It's like University Park in the last 20 years, which is now primarily million-dollar homes. That's where Wellshire is headed."
Andy Klein, vice president of Denver-based Core Companies, which is building units along Colorado Boulevard between Dartmouth and Wellshire Presbyterian Church, said Wellshire's raw housing numbers — including days on market and foreclosure rates — point to a wise investment.
"There are very few urban infill sites left in the city," Klein said.
His project, which will feature 22 units spread across three buildings, is expected to break ground in spring 2010.
If the area has a flaw from Klein's perspective, it's that Colorado Boulevard's retail front could stand some improvement, particularly as one drives from Wellshire toward Evans Avenue.
Resident Greg Norlen moved to Wellshire in 2002 and recently built a geothermal home in the neighborhood.
Norlen, a home builder by trade, said he's always looking for emerging, family-friendly towns.
He found that, and more, with Wellshire.
"It's like living in 'Mayberry R.F.D.,' " he said.
Home relies on geothermal system.
Home builder Greg Norlen boasts that the combined energy bills for his Wellshire home last month came to only $120. That might not impress someone living in a two-bedroom bungalow, but his home offers 3,400 square feet of living space, plus roughly another 1,000 in the basement.
It's part of Norlen's vision to create a geothermal home, one with as delicate a carbon footprint as feasible. Norlen built the home two years ago, installing green features like insulated concrete floors and energy-recovering ventilators toward that end.
"We started with the 'not-so-big-house' theory," he says, describing the effort to make more-efficient homes that feel as spacious as larger ones while burning less energy. "It's getting away from the McMansions."
He says the home offers the first direct-exchange geothermal system in the history of Denver, and it's a model that can be retrofit into existing homes.
"You no longer have to have natural gas running your home," he says.
Some of the green modifications aren't cheap, but he projects savings from them in the $145,000 range over the course of a 30-year home loan.
He'd like to see some of the green innovations in his home duplicated elsewhere. "I would actually love to put on some seminars with builders to explain to them what we've discovered with this house," he says.
Christian Toto, Special to The Denver Post
Average price of homes sold in 2009: $355,423
Main attractions: Wide roads, low traffic levels, proximity to Cherry Creek's shopping districts, downtown, light rail, the Highline Canal Bike Trail and a number of area parks. The Wellshire Inn, one of the neighborhood's mainstays, is closed for renovations.
Schools: Slavens Elementary
Shopping: The neighborhood is just a few blocks from the bustling Colorado Boulevard corridor.