Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shifting into condos

In this morning's Wall Street Journal:

As condominium prices reach never-before-seen heights, a debate is brewing over whether a fundamental demographic shift is driving the trend or whether this is simply the latest speculative bubble . . . last year, for the first time . . . the national median price of a condo was higher than that of a single-family home.
Whether it's a shift or a bubble, something interesting is going on here in Greensboro. Condos and townhomes are sprouting up in places that builders would have turned their noses up at just a few years -- months? -- ago.

The amazing success of Southside at the south end of downtown has pushed the next phase of that development into full swing. This building on MLK Boulevard just sprang up in the past few weeks:

Another big multifamily building is going up on MLK, and just about every empty lot in the single-family section is being prepped for construction. The common wisdom about this area is that it's for young singles, but I keep running into moms with strollers when I jog through, and a friend of mine and his wife who are new parents of newborn twins will soon be moving into this house:

And there's more development to come at Southside:

The view of this sign is from Southside to East Lee Street. That's right, East Lee Street. Former home of the Rose Health Spa (!) and Dolls of the Orient massage parlor. Note the formerly dilapidated house that is undergoing renovation. If I'd have told people two years ago that someone was planning luxury tower condominiums on this section of East Lee, I'd have been laughed out of town.

And that little phrase on the sign, "at Southside" speaks volumes about Southside's status as a hot location. Compare the real estate sign below that reads, "at Irving Park." Southside, you have arrived.

Of course Southside wasn't the first condominium development downtown. The Lofts at Greensborough Court have been here for a while:

And of course there's Governors Court a few blocks away, and the Smothers Place Lofts, just across South Elm, look to be about ready for occupation. But the trend is spreading further.

A few blocks up North Elm, John Stratton's Magnolia Place, which I wrote about previously, is coming together.

John had to work hard to make his condominium project fit into the Fisher Park Historic District; here you can see the single-family bungalow that he's building to transition the housing types from Magnolia Court to Elm St. In the foreground are the brick foundations of the condominium buildings.

Further up North Elm, across from Irving Park, Greensboro's premier old-money neighborhood, still more condominiums are going up:

Amazingly, these will be lower priced than the one at Southside and East Lee, and judging from the artist's renderings on the signs, they don't look nearly as interesting as the Tower Homes.

But there's more! Kavanaugh Builders will be erecting new townhomes a couple of blocks from the new downtown First Horizon Park in the Cedar Street neighborhood. That neighborhood has some great architecture and a lot of funky charm, but it definitely has a few seedy spots too.

Also for sale in this area are the 6 condominiums at Vick Commons, lovingly restored by Dawn Chaney.

And of course 36 one-bedroom condominiums and 24 townhouses are proposed for my own neighborhood in the Dunleath development, right around the block from me. Hoggard has blogged about it pretty fully.

I voted to approve the conceptual plan of Dunleath at the last meeting of the Greensboro Historic Preservation Commission. It passed 6-1.

My experience with people who live in, or want to live in, housing like this seems to be telling me that there is a demographic shift going on.

A new friend of our family, a married mother of two girls, who is building a new house in Hamilton Lakes (a very traditional, single-family neighborhood), was upset when she found out about all the multifamily housing downtown because her realtor hadn't bothered to show it to her. "I'd have moved downtown if I'd known about all this stuff," she told us.

Heck, I'd move there if I could afford it.

UPDATE: Hoggard asks,
When even old-school single-family-home builders such as Kavanagh start scrambling to get a piece of the action, can drug stores, grocery stores, dry-cleaners, and the like, be far behind?
Let's hope not.

And Ed Cone notes that the Rose Health Spa and Dolls of the Orient are a few blocks away on West Lee Street (not East Lee), but won't say how he knows.

Vada says there are plans to make the old Rose Spa into art space. Very cool. (I didn't mean to imply earlier that it's begin replaced with condos -- just that they'll be nearby.)

Finally, another condominium tidbit from Friday's Wall Street Journal: Las Vegas, which has always seemed to me to be super-sprawlsville, has 40,000 condominium units currently in the planning stages. Wow.

I think, a big, new chunk of the middle class doesn't like yardwork.


D. Hoggard said...

Great post!

Regarding The Vick: From my daily observations it doesn't appear that she is meeting with any early success selling the six units.

I wonder why? Price? Location? Convenience of egress/regress?

David Wharton said...

I noticed that, but it's still early. It took more than a year for Governors Court to sell out.

I think the biggest problem Vick Commons has is Fisher Ave. The fact that it's a 4-lane one-way that people really zoom on makes it very pedestrian unfriendly. That configuration pretty much wrecks the Vick Commons' relationship to the street.

If GDOT could be persuaded to restore Fisher to 2-way traffic -- and build a sidewalk on the other side of the street -- the Vick residents would have a MUCH nicer place to live.

Lex said...

More than a decade ago, my friend Mark Costley wrote a column in the old TriadStyle suggesting the creation of a mixed-use corridor along Lee Street connecting the Coliseum complex with Southside/downtown. He has sinced moved from Greensboro, but I'm sure he'll be delighted by the news of Lee St. development.

Anonymous said...

Great post -- but I think those "massage parlors" were on West Lee, not East Lee -- on the other side of my office and thus across the E-W divider, Elm....not that I had any first-hand experience, so to speak, with those places...

Vada Bostian said...

Shoot, I was hoping that the old Rose Spa was going to be redone by the Greensboro Community Arts Collective. They have plans on their website to turn it into studio space, living space, and venues for local artists. Check out my blog for a link...

Anonymous said...

I think your observation that condos like these would go to young couples is accurate. Or empty nesters. Young singles are still renters for the most part.

Anonymous said...

If only the Murrow/Fisher Ave. "interchange" or cloverleaf or whatever it is over Church Street could be changed into usable real estate. That is a lot of land to be used, and it must be getting valuable. No doubt that would held the Cheney condos as well.

darnell343rashawn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob Ainbinder said...

Is it Kavanagh Homes? ;-)

Rob Ainbinder said...

Re: PetesHouse.jpg
What's the relationship of the "front door" facing streetside to the front door on the porch?

Looks like some of those poor bungalows that have had their front porches enclosed.

David Wharton said...

That front door IS a bit weird, isn't it? But I'm totally envious of his second-story porch.

David Wharton said...

Hmm. Thinking about it some more, I'll bet there's a zoning restriction that says houses must have a street-facing entry -- hence the faux wall and door.

Just a guess, though

Gordon said...

The common wisdom about this area is that it's for young singles, but I keep running into moms with strollers when I jog through, and a friend of mine and his wife who are new parents of newborn twins will soon be moving into this house