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