Saturday, March 29, 2008

St. Louisans Bitch

St. Louis real estate
The concept of Ballpark Village was one that was tough to understand. So we have this stadium with about 80 games per year--then we have a entertainment, retail living center nearby. Baseball heaven maybe?

So the whole idea has gone through some changes. First Condos, then corporate headquarters, who knows what's next. A corporate hub seemed to be the most attractive of the options.

The day Centene announced it's intentions to move downtown, we rejoiced. One big pat on the back for the downtown revitalization. No one seems to know their plans today. They could stay in Clayton, they could move out of state, they could find another place to move downtown.

What sort of baffles me is the whining and negativity surrounding this deal not coming together.

Who really cares if Centene and Busch Stadium are neighbors? Sure it would give some useful density to the project, but is it vital to the project? It wasn't originally in the plans, so it mustn't be that important.

Listening to Charlie Brennan on Thursday the skeptics were crawling out of the woodwork. Maybe they're always out of the woodwork, talk radio is rarely in my schedule. Suddenly, the City, the Cardinals, Cordish, and anyone else involved was corrupt, spineless, failures that should be banished. The fact that so many people needed Centene to be a part of Ballpark Village was confusing. Should it have been re-named "Health Care Village?"

Bill McClellan put his usual anti-development spin on his column and made some good points about local business not getting the same favoritism being granted to Ballpark Village. The comparison to Ballpark Village to St. Louis Center is a tired cliche though. He should just come out and admit that he prefers the downtown of 1990 over the one of today.

After reading Bill's column though, something seemed to come into focus that had never been so clear about Ballpark Village. It's being built for him. Ballpark Village is being created as a suburban oasis in the heart of the City. It will bring comfort to those looking for a bit of home in downtown. It will still happen.

While the naysayers still ponder the fate of Ballpark Village, downtown development moves on. I can't shake my optimism about the right thing happening for the beloved "hole by Busch stadium". St. Louis shouldn't be so impatient and cynical. It casts a negative shadow on the immense progress and the bright future of our downtown. These major projects deserve time, attention, and the opportunity to tweak the plans until the right concept evolves.

Let's face it, the Cardinals are easily the number one attraction (besides work) downtown. Let's stand behind their goals to make the baseball experience more fulfiling in Downtown St. Louis.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Shop Downtown!

Shop Downtown
Right now there's an underlying competition going on. It's been going on for a while now.

In April 2006, the previously slated "Ballpark Village" plans were unveiled. Bill DeWitt III of the Cardinals and Chase Martin of Cordish explained a new city center with entertainment and upscale shopping. "National Brands" without a presence in St. Louis would be there. It would be a thriving part of the revitalized downtown-a destination point for shoppers. Sounds good.

Last year, John Steffen and the Pyramid Crew came up with a similar sounding plan, Mercantile Exchange. At the lunch meeting promoting the project, it was described as a mix between local independent stores and national brands with entertainment and free parking. A very impressive plan, but I couldn't help but draw parallels with Ballpark Village.

Shopping Downtown is how it should be. For years, downtown was the focal point for local area shoppers. Generations of St. Louisan's remember big shopping trips in downtown. St. Louis was a relevant major city then.Enter suburban sprawl, overall decline of downtown and the major shopping mall. Most attempts (St. Louis Centre) to reverse the trend were unsuccessful. Many argue that St. Louis Centre's attempt to bring suburbia into the inner city was what killed it. It's overall lack of authenticity.

Now, the building blocks are in place. Downtown is growing. People really want to be here to live work and play. They are wanting the services and opportunities that Ballpark Village and the Mercantile Exchange will offer.

Who could possibly screw this up? Enter in City Government.

OK, so nothing has happened yet. But in an article in today's Post, it describes a clandestine real estate acquisition by the city that city development leaders have planned for a new shopping center. As Rodney Crimm (viewed above at the Lee J's expansion ribbon cutting) put it, so residents can shop in the City instead of going to the county. It cites the projects location, having good interstate access between 40/64 and 44 (doesn't downtown have good enough highway access?)

The thing that is disturbing is not that downtown projects have competition. Obviously we live in a society where competition is a central paradigm. What is frustrating is that this appears to be a project not born out of free enterprise, but some secret deal between the city and MSD that no one seems to be asking for. Why should bureaucracy compete with free enterprise? As Mr. Crimm puts it, to compete for the tax dollars that are lost to the county. Why can't the city just work hard to be a great city and stop trying to be a suburban knock-off?

St. Louisan's are ready for a "5th Avenue" (New York) or "magnificent mile" (Chicago); an authentic urban shopping area. We just have to be ourselves and work to build our great city.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Anti-Frigid Sales

St. Louis Lofts
So the winter months aren't supposed to be the ideal time for home shopping. Winter was over this weekend when almost 30 people came to our open house, but now winter must be back.

That could really be ok.

This year the real estate market was alive and well during the winter months. The market has changed, buyer's are more savvy and demanding. Writing an offer doesn't always mean a buyer is committed to a property. Things are different but they keep moving forward. Looking at properties under contract, it appears that seller's are allowing buyer's to extend closing dates for longer periods. Much of the winter activity still has yet to officially close.

The Syndicate has started move ins since the beginning of the year. While those sales weren't all included in the MLS, it's great to see a long dormant building with a new life.

Here are the Downtown St. Louis Loft Sales for January and February 2008.

210 N 17th St #309----------------------------------------------------79,900
210 N 17th St #307----------------------------------------------------81,200
1501 Locust St #902--------------------------------------------------125,000
210 N 17th St #305---------------------------------------------------126,100
1511 Locust #104-----------------------------------------------------160,000
2201 Washington Ave #504---------------------------------------------164,600
1709 Washington Ave #801---------------------------------------------165,000
901 Washington Ave #508----------------------------------------------195,000
314 N Broadway #1704-------------------------------------------------199,900
1015 Washington Ave #301---------------------------------------------213,436
2201 Locust St #305--------------------------------------------------222,000
1123 Washington Ave #707---------------------------------------------232,500
1015 Washington Ave #403---------------------------------------------240,900
1015 Washington Ave #501---------------------------------------------243,153
1136 Washington Ave #605---------------------------------------------260,000
315 N 11th St #801---------------------------------------------------270,000
901 Washington Ave #607----------------------------------------------272,000
1015 Washington Ave #406---------------------------------------------273,600
400 S 14th St #1115 -------------------------------------------------535,000

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Got Financing?

St. Louis real estate
A lot has been said about the state of credit in the past 6 months.

Too much.

In the past weeks, two people have mentioned to me that it's impossible to get a loan these days.

What do those two people have in common? Do they have bad credit? A recent foreclosure? No income?

No, no, and no. They are simply not looking to buy a place.

It's been stunning to hear that the public perception out of all the negative hype is that people are unable to buy; which couldn't be further than the truth.

The credit crunch is doing something good for the financing markets. It's making them more honest and appropriate. It's making the true professionals in the business stand out from the charlatans.

Financing lofts has always been a bit tricky. Many loan officers or brokers do loans on condos only on occasion. Being able to correctly choose a good lending program for a specific loft is a serious matter. Back in 2005, we posted on what a Warrantable and Non-Warrantable loft was and how it can affect financing . One aspect to downtown lofts that isn't typical to most condo associations is that the association shares it's space with commercial or retail entities. Sometimes that excludes some lending options. When we've had problems with lenders unable to finance a condo for any reason, a good lender has been able to pick up the ball and get the deal done.

Looking to buy? Contact a realtor to find a home. Looking for a good professional lender--ask the realtor.