Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When do condos work? When they're historic!

Speaking of D&S Development (same people planning on building on the Alhambra & T gas station lot, mentioned in my last post) their Old Sacramento historic-building rehab project is just about sold out, as reported in the Bee:

The Mechanics' Exchange building is a century-old structure with some very nice condo lofts inside. I got a chance to tour them while I was writing a story on Old Sacramento for Midtown Monthly a while back, and they really went all-out, not only to make the building comfortable but to restore its historic appearance and physical integrity. The windows were restored, not replaced, although they re-did the panes with dual-pane glass (for insulation and soundproofing) using the original 100 year old wooden frames, restored so they'll last another century.

How do you sell fairly expensive condos in a "down" housing market--ones that come without parking spaces? By putting them in an absolutely unique building in a great location. These units sold for the same reason why midtown properties are still selling as new-home sales are stagnant: people will pay extra to live in beautiful old buildings, especially if they're fixed up to modern standards, and especially if they're in urban settings where people want to live. I just hope that more vacant downtown buildings get the same treatment. My own first choice for a "next project" of that sort would be the Bel-Vue on 8th and L Street; the Berry across the street is due for a rehab, and the Bel-Vue is currently owned by SHRA. Considering its location and the beauty of its architecture, the Bel-Vue would sell as rapidly as the Mechanics' Exchange project, and probably at similar price points. It would also help preserve a currently vacant and at-risk structure.

It's nice to see a small, local developer do well. D&S are the real deal: their office is in this great Italianate mansion, and they already have a good track record of central city infill and historic rehab projects. In a weird market like this one, locals who can offer a unique product will do better than the big behemoths who assume that the only way to make money is to build the same crud in greater quantities.

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