Monday, November 05, 2012

Post Election Politico

After election day, the last thing I want to see for a long time is a political comercial.  Despite my wishes, the Annual Downtown Residents Association Meeting will be on Wednesday, and one of the attendees (or more, not mentioning any names) is just beginning his run for office in next years election.  

The topics of the evening appear to be updates on many of the exciting things going on Downtown, but nothing new.  The topic, Revitalization of Downtown St Louis, is something we sort of take for granted.  Its almost cliche.  There have been strong, consistent forces at work for over a decade to turn around the St Louis Downtown, starting in 1999 when Clarence Harmon's administration launched DOWNTOWN NOW.  
With the economic and commercial real estate slow down starting to fade more into history, projects that have been in formation for years are coming out of mothballs and being reformed for today's world.

Watching these Downtown St Louis Residents Association meetings go on for years, the interesting thing is that the meetings content can be useful, productive, and extremely important at all times.   For whatever reason, having the Mayor as a guest seems to pull up the attendance.

Two large, but less publicized topics to be addressed that I want to see is the development of the Chemical and Arcade Buildings.  Interestingly, the Syndicate Trust project was a collaboration of a Minneapolis developer and St Louis based Loftworks.  Steps away, we'll now have two other Minneapolis area developers investing into the St Louis area.  How well these projects are handled will have a major impact on the Downtown St Louis are for decades.  A good mix of vibrant street level retail and updated office or residential in these locations will serve as the anchor for the downtown economy.  We should hear some information on those places Wednesday.

This downtown meeting is a must.  Not just to sit and listen, but to build synergy in a neighborhood where residents participate in the success of their surroundings.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Arcade Building: Round 3

For Downtown St Louis, few buildings could have as much impact on our city as the Arcade Building at 8th and Olive.   

The project made the news again yesterday with the SLDC being presented with a plan from out of state Dominium Development.

Sharing a block with the Paul Brown Lofts, this high rise has a fantastic arcade running through the building from Olive to Pine.  A well thought out and managed commercial development could really compliment the area and  surrounding downtown buildings such as the Syndicate and the Old Post Office.   
The added residential and retail density would be a welcome addition to the area. 

The project described the first 3 floors as commercial / retail, artist lofts in the middle, and the remainder of the building being high end residential rental homes.

Last weekend, I was in Omaha Nebraska.  Between events we were able to get out and check out their downtown area.  We asked around and heard that Howard Street was the place to be, so we headed that way.  What they were talking about was the part of downtown Omaha known as the Old Market District. Even though it seemed more like Soulard Market than our downtown, it seemed like a very successful implementation of concentrated urban retail and restaurants in a downtown area.

Another St Louisan commented about it being great to have that in St Louis.  Knowing that we have so much more to offer in our own downtown, we talked about it.  Our friend, being less familiar with urban St Louis, was an example of what many St Louisans don't know about downtown St Louis. 

Old Market did have some advantages. It was a concentration of destination restaurants & shops, many with protection from the elements,  with stylish lofts and plenty of parking.  They also had a nice advantage in that there wasn't nearly the competition in the surrounding areas like we have in St Louis.  This place was a catch all.  

Our downtown retail districts are spread out, can be isolated, and also compete with Soulard, Lafayette Square, Grand Center, Central West End, South Grand and more urban centers in the burbs. (Kirkwood, Maplewood, etc.).  An "anchor destination" like one created inside the Arcade Building could serve as a great starting point for shoppers looking for a better shopping experience than what we have now.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

CPI Building "Jumped"

News broke today that the struggling CPI Corporation agreed to sell it's downtown real estate - including its headquarters building to investor Dave Jump.  Parking lots between Kingbee and Moon Brothers, between the CPI Building and Ely Walker, and a few other parcels were sold to help the struggling company in restructuring as ordered last month.

Every time this company's struggles make the news, we look at this fantastic building and wonder what could become of it.  Not that it would be feasible to turn it into lofts, but having it be converted to first level retail with commercial on top could add a nice element to this part of Washington Avenue.  The surrounding buildings would likely benefit.

Full terms of the July 12 agreement weren't publicized, but its likely that the CPI Corp has a lease-back provision in the sale and will remain in business at that location.  Hopefully for a long time.

Loft Sales Busy in late Spring

Despite the negative PR campaign the Post Disgrace has for Downtown, sales have been steady in the past few months.  

Twenty-two lofts sold in May and June, which is AWESOME!  

The St Louis loft expert may point out that last year we sold more.  The same period saw 25 sales in 2011.  The 2011 market was a different market.  

Last year, 9 of the 25 sales were the dreaded FDIC liquidation sales at the Dorsa Lofts.  There was also a bit of a foreclosure glut of lofts at 2020 Washington last year, accounting for 2 sales.  

The 2012 market has its share of distressed sales, but nothing like FDIC sales or a frenzy of foreclosures in the same building competing against each other.  

Nationwide reports are showing an overall price increase in a majority of home markets, signaling a housing recovery.  This recovery takes place on a market by market basis.   Based on the lack of inventory (as of this posting, only 64 lofts are on the market downtown ranging from $44,995 to $1,300,000) and a drastic increase in market rate sales, the downtown market seems to be in the recovery phase too.

Like most markets,  downtown has 'pent up demand' to sell.  Many of these presumptive loft seller's are waiting for prices to reach a higher level.  Like all markets, this may take time.  This is consistent with most markets where the percentage of new construction going into the housing peak was as high as it was in Downtown St Louis.

Here are the Downtown Loft sales for May & June of 2012:

Blu City Spaces  210 N 17th Street

#305     $42,000
#404     $44,995
#1210   $50,000
#406     $55,000
#312     $59,995

Knickerbocker Lofts  507 N 13th Street

#502     $49,100

Columbus Square Condominiums

#33       $65,000

Lofts at 2020 (Sporting News Lofts)  2020 Washington Avenue

#703     $85,000
#706     $137,750

Westgate Lofts  410 N Jefferson Blvd. / 2323 Locust Street

#406     $94,000

Terra Cotta Lofts 1501 Locust Street

#503     $99,000

Ventana Lofts 1635 Washington Avenue

#509     $100,100

Marquette Condominiums 314 N Broadway

#1404   $120,000
#1604   $120,000
#1403   $230,000

Ely Walker Lofts  1520 Washington Avenue

#316     $153,500

Printer's Lofts 1611 Locust Street

#601     $184,000

Banker's Lofts  901 Washington Avenue

#505     $200,000

10th Street Lofts  1010 Saint Charles Street

#803     $240,000

Dorsa Lofts    1015 Washington Avenue

#304     $249,000

Edison Condominiums  400 S 14th Street

#1216   $300,000

Syndicate Condominiums   915 Olive Street

#1612   $448,200

Elder Shirt Lofts  703 North 13th Street

#503     $455,000

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Downtown Residents MEETING TONIGHT

Residents downtown that have any interest in keeping the Downtown neighborhood a vibrant, fun place to live should be at Christ Church Cathedral this evening from 6:30pm to 8:30pm for the DSLRA Town Hall Meeting!

Downtown business owners should be there too.

All the Alderman should be there, as well as a Visual Study presentation, some information from the Partnership For Downtown St Louis and the Police.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Introducing Mayfest STL

This year marks the first Mayfest, being held Downtown at the Ballpark Village site.  I've been looking forward to it for a while.

In years past, we had Rib America downtown in May, but this even sounds even better.  There's going to be Food Truck Alley, which sounds like fun.  Sort of like the Food Truck Fridays held in Tower Grove Park on the 2nd Friday of the month.  

On a side note, before my first "Food Truck Friday", the concept seemed to me like a mall food court.  Lots of options, lots of lines and crappy food.  What I've found is that the food is awesome and affordable.  The lines are there, but having it in Tower Grove Park, or in this case, Downtown at Ballpark Village is a blast as long as the weather cooperates.

There's also going to be a Louisanna Delta-Style Crawfish boil.  I'm not sure what to expect there, but Cajun Food is great, so it should be a nice addition.  

MAYFEST STL also has a great line up of bands.  War, Foghat, Superjam and several other local acts.

This type of event couldn't happen where it is if the vision of Ballpark Village was realized as planned.  Based on the DSLRA meeting with Cordish back in December 2006, the development completed would give the area a strong level of activity when the Cardinals aren't in town.  This weekend (with the Cardinals in LA), could be a test drive for what that might be like.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tour de Archgrounds - April 28

This weekend will prove to be one of the more exciting ones for a visit to Downtown St Louis.

For some lucky folks, tickets to the Cardinals NLCS rematch at 12:05 Saturday will be the thing to do.  For others, the 6:30pm Blues Second Round playoff.

We all know about the universally appealing Downtown Home Tour going on between 12-6pm.  (Sports fans should reserve 2-3 hours before or after their event in order to have enough time to see all the downtown homes).

One extra thing jumped out that really seemed great for someone looking to make a full day out of their trip downtown. 

There's two events at the National Park that caught my eye.  The NPS doesn't really do that great of a job promoting its events, so my guess is that they won't be overly crowded either.  

From 12-6, there's a vintage baseball game with historic information about Cardinals Baseball. 

Then from 6-9pm, there's a "Night at the Museum" program for $12 covering information about St Louis' role in the settling of the West.  This is a subject that I find interesting, since St Louis got to be the 4th largest city in the U.S. very quickly by tapping into the business of pioneering when it could.  As years have passed, growth has shifted elsewhere, essentially for the same reason.  
Now as we are trying to be competitive in the "Global Economy," it still is all about capitalizing on opportunities similar to the days of the wagon trains.  To build the connection between St Louis goods, services and assets, it doesn't hurt to see how things happened in the past.

One good thing about the Downtown Home Tour is that our open houses will be held and free of charge, so after the game, before the game, before the museum night, or after watching vintage baseball, STOP BY THE SYNDICATE OPEN HOUSE and see what its like to be right in the middle of the action!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Early 2012 Loft Sales

Downtown Loft sales reflect the overall market.  In one line;  more sold at lower prices.

Looking at January through April 28 for the past four years, we could come close to the previous high in 2008 of 56 sales.  Currently there are 27 lofts under contract with 30 sales so far.   

The area of greatest change is the price per square foot.  With the extensive amount of foreclosures, short sales, and appraisal challenged sales, the current price per square foot is right at $106. 2008 price per square foot:  $169.24.  Keeping in mind that the first third of 2008 was well in advance of the stock market crash and prior to the public knowledge of the banking crisis which hit later that year. 

Now, nicely finished, market rate sales selling above $150 per square foot are simply out numbered by homes dumped by institutional owners and short sales.   Sometimes the "like units" just don't exist, except for dist.  This isn't unique to St. Louis or downtown.  In talking with a nationwide developer, they've been having this problem much worse in other areas.  

I sort of feel silly making references to the market and its descent from the highs.  Like its never been talked about before. The media has beat this subject into the ground! In listing appointments though, when we hear the price that prospective loft sellers want for their unit, it seems that the reality of the market is unknown.  Sellers ultimately unable to accept the reality usually end up in foreclosure and their bank has to find reality for them.  

As real estate investors, our suggestion usually favors trying to rent out a loft space until the market recovers.  This strategy cuts down on our listings, but gives the owner tax advantages and hopefully a better sale price down the road.  Despite some horror stories, with proper screening and lease execution, downtown renters can be fantastic.

Despite the lower prices, the increase in sales is a good thing for downtown.  In 2008, while we had 56 sales, the inventory downtown was staggering.  The big question mark at that time was,  "How in the hell are we going to sell all these condos?"  Even worse, public perception was even worse than the reality.  They myth to the average St Louisan, thanks to the media, was that downtown was only 15% occupied and that there were hundreds of empty condos downtown.  That was never the case.  Now, with inventory being absorbed and prices more affordable, many people are making their move downtown.  Click on the building name and see, that very few units are currently for sale in each building.

Here's the sales data from the first third of 2012

Building/Address                       Sale Price
Blu City Spaces
210 N 17th St #610                  $29,995
210 N 17th St #908                  $29,995
210 N 17th St #411                  $30,000
210 N 17th St #803                  $54,995

Columbus Square
29 Columbus Square                 $54,900

Knickerbocker Lofts
507 N 13th St #204                  $78,023

Westgate Lofts
2323 Locust St #307                $80,000

Lofts at 2020 (commonly known as "Sporting News Lofts")
2020 Washington #605            $83,000
2020 Washington #604            $84,000
2020 Washington #313            $105,000
2020 Washington #803            $128,500

Annex Lofts
1511 Locust #508                     $90,000

Meridian Lofts
1136 Washington Ave #209    $102,000
1136 Washington Ave #712    $168,500
1136 Washington Ave #903    $215,000

Lucas Lofts 
1123 Washington #409           $110,000
1113 Washington #308*          $117,050
1123 Washington #716           $161,000

Moon Brothers Carriage Lofts
721 N 17th St #507                  $110,000

Dorsa Lofts
1015 Washington Ave #509    $119,795

The Marquette
314 N Broadway #1601           $129,900
314 N Broadway #1101           $165,000

Printer's Lofts
1627 Locust St #305                $158,000
1611 Locust St #502                $165,000

McGowan Lofts
1209 Washington #608           $175,000

Terra Cotta Lofts
1501 Locust St #707               $200,000

Ventana Lofts
1635 Washington Ave #912   $222,500

Edison Condominiums
400 S 14th St  #1113              $290,000
400 S 14th St #1202               $330,000

For more details on any sale or available unit, Contact the Premier Team for Information

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Downtown Home Tour This Saturday!

A New Spin on Downtown Home Tour

The 2012 Downtown Home Tour is being held this Saturday, April 28th from Noon to 6pm.    No loft tour we've seen has ever been like the one before, and this year is no different.  The theme, "The Art of Downtown Living" sounds to me like there is a utilitarian element to being able to live downtown.  The truth is that the downtown area is becoming the scene for local artists because of efforts to build and nurture the artist community.  
4th Floor Gallery at the Syndicate
Housing established as "artists lofts", new galleries, and buildings with special considerations for artists like the Syndicate make being an artist easier and lures more artists to consider downtown as the place to be.

Additionally, while creativity is often viewed as a characteristic of artists, it's also a key factor in business, entrepreneurship, and even science.  This neighborhoods proximity to business incubators, executive suites, and the downtown business community can be huge in helping fledgling businesses to start and grow.  Just within the past few years, I can think of a dozen businesses started by downtown residents that have benefited greatly from their location. 

The overall benefit to the community is summed up by the theories in the book by Richard Florida, "The Rise of the Creative Class."   Simply put, creativity adds to the economy.  In this day in age, that's a message we want about Downtown St Louis.  One other factor, is that, as a rule, the type of buyer moving to downtown St Louis often times has tremendous opportunities to show and appreciate art.  Large rooms and open spaces, high ceilings, and the opportunity to add lighting easily makes the downtown home perfect to display art.  As a Realtor, it seems that more and better art is on display in urban homes as a rule compared to the suburban and rural areas.  

So mixing art with downtown living is what this year's tour is all about.  Quite a turnaround from when loft developers pretty much ran the show for two days with their humongous marketing budgets.  Not only was their budgets spent by the thousands, so was attendance.  The events got to be overwhelming with activities galore, free shuttles and every developer trying to wrangle in the buyers.  While it had its pluses, the loft tour really didn't get good reviews for being a neighborhood tour.  It was more of a huge sales pitch.  Now there's only one day & 12 residences, some rental-some condos, and the after party at Art St Louis with its wine tasting.  What would be better would be if the after-party was at the Scottrade Center to watch the Blues stomp the Kings, but that has yet to be determined.  

All and all, it will be another busy weekend for the Premier Team as we have eight open lofts at the Syndicate and another open house at the Dorsa Lofts. Registration for the tour itself will be at the Laurel Apartments.  The area isn't the best place to highlight just yet, but soon will be home to the National Blues Museum, Pi, Snarf's, MX Movies and more coming in the summer and fall of this year.  This weekend we'll probably just see some nice signs;  previews of coming attractions in Downtown St Louis.  

Monday, April 09, 2012

What to do with Roberts Tower

This morning I was contacted, unexpectedly, by a Post-Dispatch reporter about the Roberts Tower. 

At the Syndicate, we have a gorgeous view of Roberts Tower from our display unit. I've had clients over the years inquire about the tower, along with condo buyers at open houses, with no response from the Roberts Brothers sales office.

It makes perfect sense to me. If I sunk as much into the Roberts Tower as the Roberts and their banker did, I'd be hesitant to put it on the market now.

One thing really threw me though. The Building Blocks author asked me a stumper. He asked me what they should do with the building if they don't use if for condos.

Not that I hadn't thought of it before. A few meetings I've attended there really made me think of how nice it would be as part of the Mayfair Hotel, but that's as far as it went.

It seemed like a good idea for a poll. We know there's a demand for them to finish the building as condos.  Otherwise no one would be asking about it. Undoubtedly not enough demand to justify the cost of the building.Would today's buyer's be likely to sustain that type of builidng?

Hopefully things will settle out favorably with Roberts Towers when all of the other struggles are dealt with. Just like hundreds of thousands of homeowner's out there, a loan modification would help the Roberts brothers immensely.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Power of Dishonest PR

Shit happens. Everywhere. After seeing news headlines describing a crime and other current affairs taking place 'near downtown', only to look up the address and find its nowhere near downtown, we've decided to offer a FREE CLASS.
The map above shows two of the locations. One happened in Fountain Park at the 4800 block. Its located close to the Ville and the Greater Ville neighborhoods. If someone isn't familiar with them, its Closer to the Central West End or Skinker- DeBallievere. To get from Fountain Park to Downtown, one would have to go through Grand Center. The other instance at 4100 N Grand Blvd is in the Fairgrond Neighborhood,
which is close to Hyde Park and North Riverfront. Its about as close to Granite City, Illinois as it is to Downtown, yet our St Louis journalists have "Close to Downtown" on the headline. If I was a downtown resident, I'd call up KMOV and complain.

I'd also question why reference to Downtown when the situation is closer to equally known areas like Central West End. They could have said, "near the Cathedral Basilica on Lindell. It would have been more correct than saying near downtown. The Partnership for Downtown St Louis should do something too. A loft tour won't address this problem. Since we're not downtown St Louis residents, we'll help by offering a special class called 'Geography For Dummies' specifically for members of the press. We'll cover city neighborhoods so that press members know something about what they're reporting on. Our class will be free.

They could buy a copy of the downtown neighborhoods map too. While downtown isn't the only neighborhood that gets erroneously connected to crimes happening elsewhere, it definately takes the prize for the most mistaken identity reports. To me this seems like it gives downtown St Louis a bad rap. We always hear public perception about downtown's lack of safety; in addition to events that really do happen, the false reporting of events as being in or close to downtown really should stop.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Block Party Today! 900 Olive 11-3

If you're not already occupied by the Occupy Movement's takeover of park land, stop by the block party on the 900 Block of Olive!  Hosted by Fifth-Third Bank, the theme of the block party is "A Block of Health and Wealth".  The cover band "Under the Influence" will be playing, food will be served, and businesses on that block will be participating in the festivities so that people can get a sense of how much is available Downtown.

This block has always been a great block in the City.  With the addition of the Culinaria at 9th and Olive and the Syndicate Condominiums with rennovated 1st floor commercial space, its one of downtowns most active blocks.

The weather should be perfect, and after things are over, everyone can cross the line into the 1000 block to Jack Patricks to watch the Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

New Wave of Development Downtown

Syndicate Condos Open This Sunday 1-3
This weeks St Louis Business Journal is all about Doing Business in Downtown and the exciting progress being made this year.

Back when developers were trying to turn abandoned refrigerator boxes into loft condos, things seemed imbalanced.  It seemed like every every vacant building downtown had plans for new luxury lofts, and the "Doing Business Downtown" pages of those years business journal spoke almost entirely about more Downtown lofts.  Even without a recession, things would have needed to change.  

Now its been almost 5 years since a hammer has been picked up for loft condos and downtown is still moving forward.  It seemed that more and better residential construction was just the beginning for downtown.  St Louis loft dwellers would have told you what was needed all along:  stuff to do.  CityGarden, Old Post Office Plaza, tons of restaurants and cafe's, Peabody Opera House, have all added to the livability factor that was missing when the loft boom started.

This weeks paper talks about the next phase, with MX adding the National Blues Museum, Pi, and a cool new concept-an upscale adults-only movie theater.  This takes adds life to the area east of the convention center, which is long overdue. 

Syndicate Condominiums include large artist workshop
Lastly, there was an article about how downtown is developing as an arts center by providing 'artist friendly' housing throughout downtown.  Having the Syndicate Condos listed for over a year, one of the cool things about it is the huge artist workshop and 2 art galleries in the building.  Having a place to both create and show art is big for an artist.  I know lots of artists that live in single family homes that have their work just stacked up in closets and hidden from the world.  Just having those things is nice, but seeing the art community active in the building by hosting art shows and using the building in the process of creation is a buzz that no other condo building can boast.  Overall though, working to foster a better artists community will be attractive in many ways for the downtown community.

As the real estate market seems to be coming back to life and the downtown market is picking up, its nice to see the momentum continue with more things happening and better livability than what the first bunch of 'loft dwellers' could enjoy. 

Syndicate 4th & 5th Floor Galleries
The 'build it and they will come' philosophy works to a point, and what we're observing with downtown is consistent with much of life:  improvements were made to downtown streets that stimulated investment and residential developement.  Residential development stimulated retail, public spaces & restaurants.  More retail &  restaurants is stimulating more office use.

The renaissance continues and Downtown St Louis is coming together nicely.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Crepes in the City: Deja Vu!

One of the most depressing stories of of the past several years downtown was the rise and fall of Crepes in the City.

Starting out as a couple operating a side business within the Washington Avenue Post, then growing over a period of time into a classy restaurant at 14th and St. Charles where Lola is now.  We saw the whole thing.  Starting out in 2006, the idea brought a vibrant clientele into the Post in what would normally be a slow time, and brought some additional income to a family that was willing to put in the hard work.  Classic American Dream stuff.  When they chose to expand, everything changed, and things went awry.

On a more positive note....

This morning when I visited the neighborhood general store / grocer / printer / cafe and hear that they are resurrecting the weekend creperie business STARTING THIS SATURDAY! (duh, that's tomorrow!).  Bob, who unknowingly served as an understudy while the business was going on is pulling out the equipment and leading the charge to become the  Downtown West answer to IHOP;  but a little trendier and a lot healthier.

Stop by tomorrow, from 9-1 and experience the re-birth of the Creperie at the Washington Ave Post!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

100% Participation Required

Downtown residents and all St Louisan's should be at the Ferrara Theater tonight at 6 for the public presentation of the Arch Grounds plan update. 

Considering the Ferrara Theater only seats 14,000, it may be a challenge, but a good opportunity to get acquainted with the community.

The meeting was announced  last week.  The public interest in something so important to the future of St Louis is disappointing.  I know the story though. St Louisan's want to get home to have a quick dinner before American Idol comes on, still working like me, or whatever.  What's clear though, is that the public response to changes in the original plan, and knowledge of the finances of the project are key to completion.  Its how we may be judged as a community, and it does affect our opportunity for growth in the future.

I was talking to a transplant buyer recently who had made the comment about St Louisans being more negative about St Louis than anyone else.  (I did run into a fashion designer several years ago that challenged that assertion).  The way we see it though, is that some folks just miss the boat when it comes to being a part of a process, then stand back and complain about the results after the fact.


6pm Tonight, January 25th
Ferrara Theater - America's Center
701 Convention Plaza
St Louis, MO 63101

Looking for a Downtown Loft For Sale, Visit our new St Louis Lofts page at!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

St. Louis University Law School Moving Downtown

Lately I've been hearing about a few new additions to Downtown St Louis, ending with todays announcement of St Louis University Law School's Relocation.

Back in the day when I was considering law school, I remember seeing the school on Lindell and wondering how they fit a law school into such a small building.  Of course, being on the main campus, it could have been spread out in several buildings.  This way, it seems like they'll be able to house the school and library all in one place.

Also a benefit, is that its across the street from the old Federal Court Building, now the City Courts, and also a few blocks from the Thomas Eagleton Courthouse.  The school is scheduled to be in operations for the Fall semester which will bring an increased interest in Downtown Living.  This shot was taken today from the Syndicate Condominiums, just a few blocks away.

Also today, I went by the first public electric car charging station that opened  at 7th and Lucas.  I'll have to say, not really knowing much about electric cars, I was expecting a little more of a 'station' than this.  Its a good start, and having a fleet of electric cars downtown would be nice.  This Enterprise 'We Car' is a start.

Lastly, a marketing company I've been looking at lately, Response Targeted Marketing announced this week its move Downtown from Richmond Heights.  They are excited about the move and the larger quarters.  Downtown is excited to have them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cassilly Memorial

I went to Downtown St Louis back in the spring of 1996 to see an art show at this "weird museum" downtown.    It was my first experience in seeing the City Museum and my first chance to see a downtown loft.  We've been back to the City Museum with kids, to list the lofts, to rent them and with buyer's, but I never had the opportunity of meeting the late founder Bob Cassilly, or know much about him.   Working in the same neighborhood and benefiting so much from his contributions to the area, it was nice to see such a long article in this months (January) St Louis magazine about the life of Bob Cassilly.  The online article isn't the complete 4 page article that's in the magazine.

Normally, when someone contributes so much to an area, there are ceremonies and notoriety that comes along with it.  The absence of that almost makes it seem like Bob was taken for granted.  That could be the case, but from the article and everything else, it seemed that type of recognition was avoided while Bob was alive.

1.  At this point, my first wish is that City Museum stays what it is and somehow the vision for Cementland is completed.  It may take years, but in seeing what contributions have been made downtown and elsewhere in St Louis, its just what the doctor ordered for the north riverfront area.

2.  My second wish is that we honor the persistent requests of rock legend, Carlos Santana, and build a statue of Miles Davis.  I would say wish #2 should be to build a statue to honor Bob Cassilly, but Carlos Santana has been asking for St Louis to recognize Miles Davis for 2 decades.

3.  Build a statue of Bob Cassilly.  This request goes to the Partnership for Downtown St Louis and to the Downtown St Louis Residents Association.  Someone needs to pick up the ball.    Why this seems urgent to me is that if it doesn't happen Downtown, it will somewhere else.  From reading the magazine article, Bob seemed to have roots all over town:  Kirkwood, Lafayette Square, Webster Groves, Dogtown.  His work was all over town, and across the country.  

We can do better than this!

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Downtown Lofts Search Engine

Back when we started working in Downtown St Louis, there was a good St Louis Lofts website called It was good but not great, mainly because at the time, there was too much speculation about what was going to be happening and not always good information about lofts. A lot of loft buildings were in the pipeline to be redeveloped. Pages were linked to the old St Louis City website. Developers sites were listed, but try to find an objective view of a neighborhood at a developers website. Very few actual lofts for sale were listed on the site. Still, it was a good site. The webmaster pulled down that site sometime in 2007 or so, and has talked about doing it again sometime. I always wanted to have a similar presence online where individual buildings could be researched and lofts for sale could be posted.

Last month, I finally got off my _ _ _ and did something about it.

We made some changes to our company website and added up to date loft / condo searches for every loft building downtown and searches for difference price ranges too.  There are also searches set up for the most popular city neighborhoods too, like Lafayette Square, Tower Grove, Compton Heights, Shaw, St Louis Hills and Soulard.  Now this afternoon, we've added the Downtown St Louis neighborhood  pages to Lofts in the Lou to make these descriptions and lofts for sale accessible from this blog.  The bar just above the most recent post has the links to the Downtown and Downtown West pages. If you're in the market to buy a loft or luxury condo downtown or if you already own one and want to check out the latest listings in your building, check out these pages and let the Premier Team help with your urban home buying experience!

Have fun and happy home searching!

Loft Education Revisited

November was a tough month. 

Having to live with a euphoric fog of having another World Series Championship in the bag, enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures, then the beginning of the holiday season.  The whole month just flew by.

One of the events I missed was the Condominium Education Event held by the Partnership for Downtown Saint Louis and Wells Fargo.  This type of class being held downtown for free gets me giddy;  not because of its entertainment value - more of a life-long mission.

That mission starts with my belief that there is a good amount of ignorance pertaining to condominiums.  This theory applies to professionals as well as the general public.  Some people say this is a St Louis thing, since we're not as experienced as a whole compared to South Florida or Manhattan.  Many of the mortgage lenders, insurance brokers and realtors in St Louis just assume that working with lofts and condos is the same as dealing with a single family home, or a mutifamily apartment.  In observing and speaking with other professionals, I've gotten the sense that if they've never lived in a condominium or if they only work with them occasionally, that they have limited understanding of how they can assist their clients. 

I've seen more lenders attempt to finance a loft and fail, I've seen hundreds of underinsured condos, and I've worked with other Realtors that make huge errors that would have been avoidable with proper condominium education.  

As far as non-professionals go, the biggest mistake I see generally is not considering what a prospective home buyer or their buyer's agent would perceive of decisions made on condo bylaws or management decisions.  Crazy stuff can happen.  I've heard some condo associations have decided not to maintain their buildings FHA approved status because they think that status will allow Section 8 tenants to live in the building or less than stellar buyers needing government assistance will buy!   These are both 100% false, yet once the decisions are made with false information, they're hard to be reversed, and often times aren't even realized by anyone else in the building, due to the same ignorance.
This brings me back to the event hosted by the Partnership and Wells Fargo.

I ran into one of the partnership folks a few weeks back, and they boasted of the success of the Condo Education event in November and said they were looking at another one soon.   Its a great event for Realtors, Loft owners, condo association memebers, board members, and property managers.  

The event will be held at the Laclede Gas Building in the New Yaeger 1st floor conference center.  NEXT TUESDAY (January 31st) at 6:30pm.  

While I'm not 100% sure of the topics involved, I know that this is information that will benefit the Downtown St Louis neighborhoods and can ultimately lead to better price appreciation and overall market stability.  


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

City+Arch+River Y2K+12

Good public monuments can be international attractions!
Visiting National Parks has always been a favorite experience for many.   The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has its "ups and downs".  

One plus is that its not a park that someone has to visit in order to experience it.  Having one of the best expressions of modernist architecture as part of the St Louis landscape can be seen for miles around.  

My thought is that could be why the park superintendent took the original Saarinen site plan and stripped it down; removing several key elements which would have contributed to public enjoyment..  Maybe he felt that the Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion was all that was needed.

From some of the latest press conferences, it seems that may be happening again.  Fair enough.      The economy is still lagging.  Budgetary concerns are hitting the government.  

My wish is that more people would take an interest in what is happening with the City+Arch+River project and its tremendous implications to Downtown St Louis.   When the events were held to unveil the contest winner back in August 2010, I was amazed at how sparse the attendance was.  Fewer people than a high school football game.  Sad.

My trip 18 months ago to the City of San Antonio wouldn't have been the same if it hadn't been for the visionary regional leadership that helped create the San Antonio Riverwalk.  As a result of having a major attraction in its downtown area, the City has become a top convention destination, which has led to more development and economic growth.  When City+Arch+River competition was held, that was the vision I had for the Arch grounds.  Maybe its a crazy thought in these times, this awesome project for downtown shouldn't have to just be a government hand-out.  If enough St Louis residents get behind this project, alternative funding sources could fill in where government falls short.  The plan shouldn't have to be altered.  

Get behind it! by attending the REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY next Wednesday 1/25 from 6-7:30 at the Ferrara Theater at America's Center.   

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2011 Loft Market At-A-Glance

While St Louis loft sales increased last year, they seemed to do so at a price.  As expected, average prices dropped. 

The culprit this year in particular, is the foreclosure agent.  Aside from the FDIC take-over of the Dorsa Lofts sales, one trend we've seen this year is truly below market pricing on foreclosure listings.  This has been great for the downtown buyers this year. 

We're still working on the release of 2011 Loft Sales by Building, which should be posted within the week.  The executive 'market summary' is below.  While downtown residents may look at these numbers with some disappointment, these sales numbers reflect some necessary answers to questions we've had on the horizon for a few years. 

In looking at the individual numbers, as we've observed all year, it seems less a matter of the dreaded 'prices dropping' as it does that more higher value lofts sold in years past.  For example, several sales took place in Downtown West buildings that aren't eligible for conventional financing, Like Motor Lofts, Packard Lofts, and Kingbee Lofts, where virtually no sales took place last year.  Also, there seemed to be an inordinately large number of foreclosures in the Lofts at 2020 (Sporting News Lofts) all at the same time.   That 'competition' between foreclosures led to steep price drops by sellers (banks) that have very little patience for inactivity.   Basically the same thing happened in Dorsa Lofts with the FDIC slashing prices even as lofts were selling at a fast rate.

St Louis Lofts Market Analysis


Downtown St Louis neighborhood is bound by Chouteau on the South, the Mississippi River on the East, Cass Avenue on the North, and Tucker Boulevard on the West.

Average Price=                     $193,204    - Down from $222,816
Average Size=                       2 bed / 1.9 bath   1605 square feet
Average Market Time=         180 days
Total Volume Sold=               $8.68 million  -up from 6.68 million

Downtown West

Downtown West St Louis neighborhood is bound by Chouteau on the South, the Tucker Boulevard on the East, Cass Avenue on the North, and Jefferson  Avenue on the West.

Average Price=                     $119,559 - Down from $141,429
Average Size=                       2 bed / 1.6 baths 1310 square feet
Average Market Time=         94 days
Total Volume Sold=              $5.49 million -down from 7.08 million

Looking at the numbers, 2011 was a hard pill to swallow, but just like any other tough pill, it needed to happen for the market to fully recover.

Search the new and improved Downtown St Louis real estate site, to search for St Louis lofts by building, size and area.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Downtown Loft Sales Increasing!

When the year wraps up and we're celebrating another year gone by, many folk are drawn to the numbers of what's been done that year. While it may not be my first inclination, I'm interested to see how things stack up for the downtown lofts and condos sold. 

 This year was looking up. 

 When the stock market and housing market slid into the tank back in 2008, one thing was clear: it would take time to climb out of "this mess." Since then, we've seen a process. A backlog of lofts, and pent up demand to sell. 

Much of this demand isn't as much because of the market itself, but because the conventional wisdom of buying homes for the 'long run' was abandoned by many home buyer's during the housing boom. It wasn't uncommon to hear buyers talk about living downtown for a few years, then finding some place bigger in Lafayette Square, Tower Grove or a suburban area like Kirkwood or Webster Groves. 

 Unfortunately, the drop in home values changed the plans of many downtown residents.

Preparing the numbers to look at the current downtown real estate market, I couldn't help but think that many readers wouldn't have the proper perspective about our market without first looking at a basic analysis of the inventory of downtown lofts.

In 2007, my partner and wife confronted a developer on Washington and 14th Street because of her concern about the over-development being unveiled that year.  Over 2,200 loft condos were supposed to be built and added to the inventory in 2007-08.  The graph below shows the numbers from the MLS of the total number of listings per year (based on expired listings, cancelled listings and sold listings) and the numbers sold.

In 2004-5, there was a housing shortage in Downtown.  Even in a perfect market, some homes don't sell;  price too high, bad smells, dirty, or ugly finishes will kill some sales.  In 2005, 62% of the listings sold.  What makes that even more exeptional, is that in this case, a majority of the lofts sold were newly built condos and were sold pre-construction, so they weren't even on the MLS.    It was almost pure growth.  

The percentage of lofts sold in Downtown dropped quickly from that point.  The low point of 2008, only 18% of the inventory was sold.  It was a tough year.  

From that point on, the percentage of total inventory has risen steadily.  In 2010 we saw a 20% increase in loft sales!  Good news for the neighborhood and downtown residents.

I'm comfortable with that steady increase.  For 2012 I anticipate a drop, only because the 2011 market was influenced greatly by the FDIC sell-off at the Dorsa Lofts.  

With no condominiums being built downtown completely since 2007, and with a steady increase in both residency downtown and in condos sold, we should achieve a more balanced market soon.  

What does that say to me?   Now is a fantastic time to buy, before prices start to creep upwards.  

So that is my non-economists analysis of the downtown residential inventory.  Seeing that downtown is weathering the sluggish economy, I'm excited to see what happens when things really pick up.  

If you're looking to get a better grip on the downtown loft market....stay tuned for the 2010 Loft Sales here at