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Conflicting Economic Trends Tug North Idaho In Opposite Directions

Wed., June 26, 1996

Here’s economic fodder for the good news, bad news street-talkers in North Idaho.

Tourism is up. Real estate is down.

Motel-hotel and bed and breakfast room rentals were up 19.3 percent for the first quarter over last year, according to the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce.

That eclipses Idaho’s statewide room rental increase of just 1.9 percent and the national increase of 11.3 percent, indicating that North Idaho is one of the country’s destination locations.

Chamber of Commerce advertising money spent in the state of Washington must be worthwhile. The Idaho Travel Industry organization says 43 percent of all North Idaho visitors and 82 percent of the skiers in 1995 came from Washington and spent nearly $13 million.

Now for the bad news.

Last year 8,349 properties were listed for sale and 2,924 sold for a success rate of 35 percent and an average price of $104,000. Compare that to 1990 when 5,104 properties were listed and 2,872 sold for a success rate of 56 percent and an average price of $65,000.

That means 65 percent of the properties listed last year did not sell. Still, contractors and speculators are building houses like crazy in subdivisions that were approved before this year.

Reality appears to be sinking in, as requests for subdivision hearings have trickled to nearly nothing this year. In a few years, sales may catch up to what’s available.

Two new businesses opened last week in the Old City Hall, 424 Sherman Ave., downtown Coeur d’Alene.

One of a Kind features what its name boasts in items for the home. Included are antiques, quilts and fine art specialties such as wood-turned pens and hand-made lamps and papers.

Owner Alisa Proctor specializes in hand-painted furniture and in painting what she calls “faux finishes” such as murals or borders on walls. Originally from Sacramento, Proctor came to North Idaho this spring from North Carolina.

You say you saw an import store just like Turtle Shell Trading in Missoula? No surprise. Shelly Earnest’s shop in Old City Hall is a spin-off from her parents’ Dragonfly store in Montana.

Her merchandise from around the world includes clothing, jewelry, sarongs, cards, incense, perfume oils, chimes and cloth handbags and backpacks.

Both open daily, the two new stores will celebrate with a grand opening July 3-5. Old City Hall spaces are leased through Beebe, McKernan & McCarty commercial real estate.

My family and I dropped from 105 to 55 degrees Sunday when we returned to North Idaho from Arizona, where we sampled other resort communities. Unlike our home, these are places we want to visit, not live in, primarily because of the heat, traffic, dust and smoke.

Some reflections:

The town of Sedona, nestled among spectacular red sandstone rock formations in central Arizona, was disappointing after its positive print and oral buildup. The place has no real downtown, just plenty of pricey art and junk tourist shops spread out among mini-malls. Neighboring Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon, however, is a special, natural waterslide treat.

Just 30 miles north, Flagstaff also was smaller than its reputation. The city, about the size of Coeur d’Alene minus its lifeblood of Northern Arizona University, seemed fairly dull. NAU itself is poorly landscaped.

Grand Canyon National Park is awesome but crowded with tourists, many from abroad. The doorstep town of Tusayan, with most of the area’s motels and eateries, needs a water-minded entrepreneur for a business to cleanse cars, clothes and camping bodies.

The northernmost town of Page is a commercial gold mine for businesses catering to tourists visiting Lake Powell, a geological wonder primarily located in Utah.

Yes, Arizona is good place to visit, but North Idaho is the place to live.

A few outdoor-mode tidbits:

Stop the calls! The dirt scraping on acreage west of Jacklin Seed along Interstate 90 is just that. Property owners N.A. Degerstrom and Acme Materials are preparing the land for possible sale.

Rock Climbing classes are offered by Granite’s Edge Climbing School, a new business in Sandpoint. Owner Craig Mearns, who came to North Idaho after learning his trade in Virginia, supplies all technical equipment. Phone 264-8007.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Nils Rosdahl The Spokesman-Review

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