Friday, November 30, 2007

Slowly, but the Wheels are Moving

Downtown St. Louis streets
A few years ago there was a traffic study of downtown streets and recommendations from experts on what needed to be done. Suggestions ranged from making some streets 2 way, (such as what was done shortly afterwards on Locust), synchronizing the traffic signals to allow for better traffic flow, and reducing the lanes on Tucker and allowing for better streetscape and parking (aka making it more pedestrian friendly).

I was jazzed about the changes and started watching for them right away. Locust did change between 14th and Jefferson--lowering the chances of me causing a head on collision overnight. Not the most observant of people, but that's all the changes I saw.

According to Mayor Slay's PR team, downtowns street revisions are now being drawn up by HOK downtown and plans should be ready by next spring. It's hard to concieve of more road work being done at the same time as the I64 project, but the recommended changes seemed relatively minor. Let's get it done folks! We're ready for these improvements.

Mortgage Rates Hit 2 Year Low!

St. Louis real estate
The latest word from Freddie Mac on mortgages is that the fixed rate 30 year mortgage dropped down to 6.10%. That's the lowest since October 2005. With the deals available, the rates low, and everyone else at the mall, now might be the best time to buy in years!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mayor Slay's Realtor: Please Read

Downtown St. Louis residenceMayor Slay has hinted on several occasions of an interest in living in a loft. In his most recent blog posting, he talks about having the moving bug and already having a realtor. So to you, Mayor Slay's Realtor, here are the top 10 reasons why the Mayor and Mrs. Slay need to relocate to downtown.

1. The short walk to work would be invigorating and a positive lifestyle change for the mayor.

2. Membership in Downtown St. Louis Residents (DSLRA) would keep him informed of social events and community activities.

3. Walk to Washington Ave Post for Crepes in the City or to the Rooster.

4. Instead of driving a few miles to meet up with friends, just walk a few blocks or stay in your own building!

5. Pre-game parties in the loft with a short walk or shuttle to Cardinal, Ram's or Blues Games.

6. Rock Climbing at Upper Limits gym to alleviate the stress of public office.

7. Catch a cab with neighbors to visit Soulard Market or Forest Park.

8. Every first Friday of the month get a fresh dose of new art at all the local galleries and shops.

9. Live in one of the best collections of historic architecture in the nation.

10. Enjoy the modern upgraded style of living amongst a rapidly building community eager for a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Build It and They Will Come

Downtown Retail and Schools
The most stable blocks in Downtown West are moving towards a new level of completion. At 1224 Washington, the Roberts Galllerie & Lofts construction began this week.

An era ended this week as the Downtown Childrens Center vacated its location beneath the Knickerbocker Lofts to move down Washington into the newly completed Motor Lofts building. Our kids started at DCC a few months ago and love it. The new facilities have lost the "urban funk" feeling, which seems to have everyone pretty happy.

The vacancy puts that space into the hands of Kevin McGowan & Urban Blue, which will definately put the space to good use. (Never to be relied upon) word on the street is that a restaurant and 3 retail spaces will result.

Also, at the opposite end of the block, Riley Waldrop purchased the old Marte's Shoe store and plan on converting it to more boutique style clothing and accessory stores.

The street traffic and presence on these two blocks can definately support this type of development and added retail, particularly as residents continue to take advantage of some of the great deals on lofts. It's exciting to see these key locations being developed, I can't wait!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankfully Downtown

Downtown St. Louis EventsHolidays have lots of traditions. That's especially true for downtown.

Usually, my Thanksgiving traditions were pretty much limited to listening to Alice's Restaurant on KSHE and then heading off to the family feast.

This year was different.

The morning festivities started with the Thanksgiving Day Parade. This is an ongoing event. Not being much of a parade person isn't an excuse when there are little ones involved. The boys went crazy over the parade. We pulled up next door to the Hilton at the Ballpark for my selfish need to be close to Starbucks. What impressed me the most was participants attempt to pretend it wasn't cold outside. Miss Soulard was dressed like it was a warm summer day. Her face told the true story. She looked miserable. We saw Santa then hit the road (he was appropriately dressed).

Our next event was a bit more challenging. Hosting a feast for 23. What made it more complicated was the home it was to be held in is still under construction. Thanks to our friend in the Kingbee building, we were able to use her space to host the family.

Hosting 23 people from around the metro area, most of which have never been in a loft was interesting. Our thought when we announced that we were moving the celebration downtown was that people would be hesitant. "The ONLY reason they're coming (into the city) is to see your new house!" my mother-in-law explained. We were delighted by the actual response though. Everyone was thrilled to be downtown. Being inside a loft excited the whole bunch.

Between dinner and dessert, we piled Downtown St. Louis real estateinto 3 minivans and pressed further into the city to visit the downtown Macy's. A tradition that my elders couldn't stop talking about. "We used to always come to Famous Barr downtown to see the windows", I heard several accounts. My thoughts recalled the articles I've read through the years regarding the decline of downtown. For years and years, our region revolved less and less around the downtown area. An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1997 (2 years before the first loft condo building was completed) said that if our region was going to compete in the 21st century, that we would need to address the problems with our downtown.

When we got to Macy's, there was a pretty good crowd traversing from window to window around the store. The window displays were well done. The response was good too. Keeping track of the 9 kids in our vans was the priority, by this time they weren't to excited about forming an orderly procession from window to window. Hearing the positive remarks about downtown development was nice, but being able to say that so much more is on the way was even better.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ready, Set, Bowl!

Loft District
Some thought it wouldn't happen, some thought it would never get done. But for all you bowlers out there, and everyone else, the Flamingo Bowl is finally coming!

Set to open December 14th, Joe Edwards told the St. Louis Business Journal that he already has booking requests. Also, he said he was doing it out of a love for St. Louis.

Downtown Bowling means more to downtown than just another bowling alley. It means one more thing we can do downtown without having to travel. Priceless!

We'll see you on the lanes!

Demand Continues to Expand

The downtown loft market continues to surge. So says Lisa Brown, real estate reporter for the St. Louis Business Journal in this morning's edition. Interesting timing, really. The article headlines the fast pace and talks about the Syndicate building. The Syndicate is scheduled to start closings within the next few weeks, Dorsa has already begun closings. So between the surge in existing loft sales that has taken place in the past two months and longer range sales that should consumate before 12/31, we are on pace to nearly double the sales downtown from 2006.

What slump?!?

Ok, so there's still a few developer's with mounds of unsold inventory. Despite the value and the recent uptick in sales, existing lofts are still sitting on the market. I do applaud the Business Journal's latest article for its positive perspective. As we hear all the time, or maybe that's just me, the St. Louis market is in pretty good shape considering the mess elsewhere.

Because we're finally taking advantage of our urban core (anywhere else this repository of 19th Century architecture would be priceless) we're ceasing to be the forgotten city. Real estate articles in the mid-90's, St. Louis wasn't even a city under consideration, now we're starting to regain our standing in the world.

PS. It's good to see we didn't make Forbes list of 20 MOST OBESE CITIES!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Leadership Downtown

Downtown Loft BusinessAs a business leader and downtown resident Mike Finan has made his mark on the Loft district! Mike was drawn to downtown 4+ years ago when he relocated from Kirkwood. He just finished rehabbing a condo in downtown Kirkwood but still wanted more of an exciting, urban feel. He explored downtown and came across the Louderman Lofts by Loftworks. For him it was home. He was Sold on Downtown!

In October of 2004 Mike began his business UMA( located @ 1100 Locust, with UMA Dot Spot is just two doors down at 313 N. 11th street.) The concept for these stores emerged out of frustration with trying to locate affordable accessories that reflected a modern sleek look for his own loft. UMA is a contemporary store that offers unique home accessories not found elsewhere in the St. Louis area. UMA has evolved in a variety of ways. It now is 3X the original size having 5 employees & 2 store fronts. The accessory line has grown & reflects a variety of edgy items such as a hammock chair, wall mounted wine rack, hand sculpted sconces for coats and much more. They have incorporated trendy Blu Dot furniture not found locally that has high design but a moderate price & Tivoli audio systems that hold great sound and are technologically advanced. Mike is always introducing fresh items that are unique to the area.

Downtown Business LeaderWhen asked about the affects of the highway 40 shut down, Mike states that it may change his customer base a bit, but many shoppers come in on the weekends so he expects continual growth. His clients are loyal & he feels the 40 shut-down might actually increase foot traffic downtown as many work & play in the city.

Along with his business growth & success he loves life in the city. He says that while the growth is amazing, he can still walk down the street and be greeted by many. Mike stresses that downtown continues to get the added stores & commerce it needs to become a residentially friendly neighborhood. He alludes to the much rumored Schnucks Market that has ownership of a local garage and supposal plans to open in the future. There are tons of great restaurants, banks, dry cleaners, shops, city grocers & much more now and slated in the future. If downtown doesn’t have it, the surrounding city does! Home Depot, Target, Walgreens & more! Everything is within a few miles or just a short drive away. Mike feels as a downtown resident his job is to shop in the city. Supporting our local commerce is what will make the City of St. Louis thrive and grow.

It was a privilege to meet with Mike so I could talk to him about the city & help share his experience. He had a vision and has been very successful in his business as well as being a constant supporter of downtown. If you have not been by UMA I encourage you to stop in to see what is available. You will find great home accessories and holiday gifts for your loved ones. You’ll be compelled to return over and over again!Downtown Businesses