Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Montgomery Alabama downtown loft tour

It's hard to believe these days, but 12 years ago it was a struggle to get certain segments of the housing market to consider living in Downtown and other neighborhoods in DC's core.  That's why in 2003, the city held the first and only "City Living Expo" to promote living in the city.

And I suggested to the city's "Long term revitalization coordinator" a "Downtown house tour" be created to highlight in-city living.  They never did it, and soon enough, trends and attitudes favoring urban living hit critical mass so that living in the city is no longer considered "outlier" behavior.

In my opinion, most other communities need to continue to promote urban living options in a concerted way, and house tours are a good way to do that.  However, most house tours are in more traditional neighborhoods comprised of single family households.

Printing Press Lofts.  Photo:  Julie Bennett, Huntsville Times.

Downtowns and similar districts are more typically comprised of multiunit housing, and not to many communities figure out that these districts can be promoted with house tours too.

Montgomery Alabama held such an event last Sunday, Loft Living Tour 2014.  See "Loft tour promotes downtown Montgomery living" from the Montgomery Advertiser.

-- Market District, Montgomery, Alabama
-- "Take a look inside The Printing Press Lofts," Huntsville Times
-- "Downtown's Printing Press Lofts have a storied past," Montgomery Advertiser
-- "City House: This loft has all the perks of suburban living and more right in the center of the city," Huntsville Times

From the first article:
The tour was a partnership between Foshee Management Co., which manages about 130 apartments downtown as well as other properties in east Montgomery and Prattville, and the nonprofit Landmarks Foundation, which promotes historic preservation.
Some of the featured residences were more like traditional apartments than true lofts, but each building offered a variety of repurposed urban living spaces that have no yard work involved. The demand for such downtown living has come about in just the last 10 years.
"Thirty or 40 years ago, apartments were by necessity," said Beau Daniel, regional property manager for Foshee. "Now, apartments are by choice."
Printing Press Apartments during construction. Huntsville Times photo.

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At 11:09 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

They look very nice.

I noticed that in Memphis, pretty downmarket and a lot of downtown living.

Of course I am old enough to remember that in Cleveland in the 1980s. That did not end well.

"Analysis of data within the 10,000 completed survey questionnaires used to calculate the ZHCI reveals that younger renters are upbeat about their future home-buying prospects. Among millennial renters (aged 18-34), 82 percent said they were confident or somewhat confident that they will be able to afford to own a home someday, compared to 64 percent of Generation X renters (those aged 35-49) and just 48 percent of Baby Boomer renters (aged 50-64). Millennials overall were also far more optimistic about future home value appreciation. One-third of millennials (33 percent) said they expected home values to rise more than 6 percent per year over the next decade, compared to 21 percent of Generation X and just 15 percent of Baby Boomers.

“It’s heartening to see younger renters express so much confidence in their ability to buy a home in coming years, because today’s renters by necessity are tomorrow’s buyers,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “Cynics might argue that these results represent no more than youthful exuberance, or perhaps some naiveté, but that’s missing the point. We need this generation to be confident and wanting to buy, regardless of the difficulties they face. And there are difficulties, including saving for down payments in the face of high rents and high student debt burdens, uncertain job prospects among younger workers and limited entry-level home inventory. But optimism is a necessary first step, and indicates a desire among a very creative generation to find creative solutions that will enable them to achieve homeownership.”

In some respects, millennials’ views toward housing may be more conventional than older generations. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of millennials said they agreed with the statement that owning a home is necessary to living the “good life” and is central to the American dream, compared to 56 percent of Generation X and 55 percent of Baby Boomers. Roughly 46 percent of millennials said they agreed with the statement that owning a home is necessary to be a respected member of society, compared to 38 percent of Generation X and less than a third (30 percent) of Baby Boomers.

“Although strong aspirations are no substitute for financial capacity or creditworthiness on a mortgage loan application, this feedback from millennial renters is significant because it confirms that they bear relatively few psychological scars from the housing bust, and because the attitudes of this generation will drive housing trends in the decades to come,” said Pulsenomics Founder Terry Loebs. “Regarding the outlook of renters across all generations, in 14 of the 20 major metro areas in which we conduct our research, a majority of renter households don’t believe that right now is a good time to buy a home. However, a larger, two-thirds majority of these 3,764 renter households said that owning a home someday is a specific goal that they are determined to reach, or something that they think about a lot.”

So, you can also see this as a trend to attract renters with nicer amenities than a starter house.

When you see condo markets developing in that size cities something else is going on.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There is an out of print book called _Get Urban_ which makes the point that you can live in an "urban" environment or a downtown in lots of places, it just doesn't have to be the big city, but could be Omaha or even a place like Montgomery or Louisville or Des Moines.

So part of it is a rounding out of providing housing options to various segments of the market, whereas before the focus was on the suburban segment almost exclusively.

The trick is as you say whether or not owner-occupied housing gets developed. One of the articles I linked to was about owned housing.

wrt Cleveland, what I learned is that people "age out" of wanting to live in places like the Warehouse District as they get older and are less interested in the night life, couple, maybe have kids, etc.

Do those people stay in Cleveland (Shaker Heights, Tremont, Ohio City, etc.) or do they move out to the suburbs?

So the retention issue of maintaining population at different life stages becomes an issue. I can't imagine any city is that nuanced in their focus.

and as we've discussed in the past, educating kids, especially multi-child families is expensives, servicing traditional housing (since cities don't collect income taxes) is a revenue loss, and serving older adults can be problematic as well.

wrt the general point, I think that more people will want to live in cities, but how many we don't know, and again as you've mentioned, it's dependent on public safety, as well as school quality, both areas where cities have lagged somewhat compared to the suburbs.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

oops. just came across this.

otoh, I have so many reports and studies to read sitting in my queue.

They classify magnet cities, sunbelt cities, and legacy cities, and they look at three demographics, under 35, 35 to 44, and older.

They find that some cities are attracting the first two demographics, and that there isn't evidence that older demographics are moving back to cities, and that many legacy cities aren't doing too well in attracting younder demographics.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger warren jurn said...

There are difficulties, including saving for down payments in the face of high rents and high student in montgomery School debt burdens, uncertain job prospects among younger workers and limited entry-level home inventory.

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