The bravos keep raining down on Louisville, with the city on Monday picking up yet another top-five ranking from Money magazine in its list of best small U.S. communities in which to live.
The magazine ranked the city second among a collection of 50 cities and towns with populations of 50,000 or less. The honor comes after Louisville, with a population of 19,000, placed at the top of the list in 2009 and 2011.
Sharon, Mass., claimed the No. 1 slot in 2013.
"It's a testament to the fact that Louisville is a great city to live in and work in -- it validates all those things," Mayor Bob Muckle said.
He noted that Louisville has been in the top five since Money magazine began publishing its list of best small communities in 2005, a list that comes out every other year.
According to Money, Louisville is a "great place to raise a family, with well-regarded schools and a safe community. ... Locals say the work-life balance in Louisville is hard to beat. Come summer, residents can look forward to weekly events featuring food trucks from local restaurants, beer gardens, live music and much more."
The publication also cites Louisville's rising housing market and its location in the technology-rich Front Range corridor.
Steven Williams, a nine-year resident of the city, described himself as a "pretty happy resident of Louisville."
"We like it because it is a real family environment," he said Monday. "The downtown is the thing that's changed the most since we've been here. It's very vibrant. I'm not sure vibrant is a word I would have used nine years ago."
In the last few years, Louisville's downtown shopping and restaurant scene has become the envy of towns and cities across the country attempting to recapture the bustling and charming community core of a long-ago America. The city's Main Street is lined with a variety of casual to finer dining choices augmented by a popular summertime outdoor patio program, in which on-street parking is sacrificed so that diners can enjoy a meal outside.
But as the economy rebounds and the hard-hit housing market revives itself, Louisville runs the risk of being loved to death, with people from around the country eyeing it as a next possible hometown and housing prices racing ahead as a result. Already, according to real estate website homes.com, the median home price in the Louisville/Superior zip code has exceeded the level reached during the housing boom eight years ago.
Mary Ellen Wood, a Realtor with Niwot-based Homestead Real Estate LLC who does business in Louisville, said home prices in the city have risen 10 percent since the beginning of the year. She expects more upward pressure on prices as the economy continues to recover and Louisville remains a top destination for families.
"Prices are definitely rising because there is not a lot for sale," Wood said. "When they come on the market, they go really quickly."
Louisville has run out of large parcels of developable land, Muckle said, and can only add housing through infill developments. That alone, he said, will ensure that home prices continue to rise in the city -- good for current homeowners but a challenge for those trying to enter the market.
"We're effectively landlocked -- we've built out as much as we can -- so pressure on prices is inevitable," the mayor said.
Wood said the 1,500 units planned as multi-family housing in the city over the next few years will help satiate some of the demand for homes in Louisville, but she said young families looking for more space for kids and pets will still want to buy a single-family home.
Ken Hotard, senior vice president of the Boulder Area Realtor Association, said Louisville is wisely bringing online a diversity of housing that can serve a range of people from young professionals to empty-nesters to the less affluent.
Some of the city's new housing types can be found in Steel Ranch and North End, while Coal Creek Station is proposed for an 11-acre site at the southwest corner of Colo. 42 and South Boulder Road. It calls for 51 homes -- a mix of 34 duplexes and 17 townhomes -- and 34,000 square feet of commercial space. A little farther west, 111 high-end apartments are planned as part of the redevelopment of the old Safeway site on South Boulder Road.
"Louisville is a full-service community," Hotard said. "When you bring in new product into the kind of marketplace that exists in Boulder and Broomfield counties, there is going to be great interest in it."
As to the influence a good ranking in Money magazine might have for the city, Hotard said it needs to be seen as part of a larger picture. But it's not insignificant, he said.
"It does produce a bit of cachet," he said.