Any home buyer’s looking in the city right now may want to check the qualifications of the Homelift Downpayment Assistance program. The program really is ‘free money’ to those who qualify since it was devised as a mandate by the federal government for misbehavior by Wells Fargo. Only those buying in St. Louis City qualify!
For years, a common perception has been that getting a good education isn’t possible in the City of St. Louis. Young couples buy a home in the city with a vision for the future, and within a few years, they start having children and start focusing on the move that will bring them into a good school district so that their beloved children don’t end up looking like the above.
There has always been the parochial school exception, if you’re willing to pay.
That’s about as much as most people know when they weigh in about St. Louis City. There’s just an understanding, it seems.
For some folks that are more “in the know” there’s the City Schools gifted programs. Interestingly, out of all the negative hype we hear about city schools, the fact that 2 of the top 10 secondary schools in the State of Missouri are SLPS schools didn’t seem to make a dent in the cynical majority. This information has been available for months, yet most are unaware, and still shocked to hear it.
Also in the news is the success of many of the charter schools. Both City government and local residents have been highly supportive of the movement to improve local schools, and Charter schools have been the vehicle by which local government and residents can participate. We always ask parents for feedback when we hear their child attends a city school, and seem to hear the truth. These are the same parents that provide feedback on stlcityschools.org; a site specifically designed to help parents understand the many options and how they rank in the eyes of current parents.
So the moral of the story, if you or someone you know is spreading false information about the ability to get a great education in the City of St. Louis, take the time to do your homework.
One of the highlights of summer for me is a relaxing evening at the Botanical Garden enjoying a packed light dinner on a Wednesday night. The Whitaker Music Festival isn’t about excitement, but just a relaxing evening outdoors in one of our cities greatest assets: the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The summer line up was just published today.
Show time is 7:30 p.m.
The concerts are free.
— June 4, Peter Martin Quartet
— June 11, Al Holliday and the East Side Rhythm Band
— June 18, Marsha Evans and the Coalition
— June 25, Javier Mendoza
— July 2, Old Salt Union
— July 9, Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters
— July 16, Nigel Mooney
— July 23, Augusta Bottoms Consort
— July 30, Melissa Neels Band
— Aug. 6, Gene Dobbs Bradford Blues Experience
This is a video that describes why the so called crime reports that pop up on on news sources have St Louis ranked higher for crime than it actually is.
While I’ve always understood how crime numbers are made to look bad due to the geographic size and population of St. Louis City, compared to other metro areas, I’ve never seen a video that helps people understand it.
Hopefully this video helps stop some of the lies that come from critics of the City / County merger spread about why the merger would help the region.
Today is Election Day! Vote~~
One of the cool, up and coming parts of St Louis City is the Grove in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. This neighborhood is located south of the massive BJC main campus, Central West End, and Interstate 64, east of Kingshighway, and north of Vandeventer. The Grove started out as a few popular nightclubs and grew into a diverse commercial district with great restaurants, shops and other amenities like the Language Immersion Charter School. Commerce is not all that is happening in the Grove. After finding a few buyers some awesome renovated homes in the Grove, I sat down with Austin Barzantny of Grove Properties and talked about the great strides going on in FPSE.
The folks at Grove Properties LLC do a great job of finding “shell” homes in the area and stripping them down, and restoring the homes with a high quality, modern finish while maintaining the historic charm of the home. Currently, the home on the market through Grove Properties is listed below at 4342 Hunt St. St Louis, MO. 63110 –a 3 bedroom 1.5 bath listed for $129,900.
Forest Park Southeast. She gushed about the potential of the area due to its proximity to Barnes Hospital and Interstate 64. If I was smart, I would have started buying up homes then. The latest massive growth of both CORTEX and BJC are fueling more growth in the surrounding neighborhoods like Forest Park Southeast.
One of the problems that seemed to stifle development in the past was poor access to the neighborhood. Limited highway access; there was a Boyle Avenue exit from westbound I-64 (Highway 40 for the locals), but access was blocked from Kingshighway. The bridges over the highway that allowed traffic in from the Central West End were narrow and lacked modern functionality.
Now, the MODOT project to increase traffic flow and add highway access from both directions to not only Boyle but also Tower Grove Avenue is in process. That major project, along with the ‘suburban-esque’ apartment complex being built along the highway are adding to the density and housing options available for the growing area.
With the improvements to the roads and infrastructure surrounding the Grove, along with the commercial and entertainment improvements along Manchester Avenue and throughout the northern Neighbor, the BJC Complex will leave the small neighborhood known as the the Grove in a PERFECT position to thrive into the future.
Early in my real estate career, one of my mentors told me an analogy. “Neighborhoods are like mutual funds and individual homes are like stocks,” he explained further, “values rise and fall independently but they all have an effect on the overall quality of the neighborhood.” By the same reasoning, the overall value of the City of St Louis can be based on the quality of the individual neighborhoods.
One thing that’s interesting about the urban renaissance in St Louis is when people are looking to relocate to St Louis City from the surrounding area, its amazing how little they know about the options they have. Working with buyer’s Downtown and in the Central West End, there are some folks that start by looking at the chic urban condo or loft. In the process of looking, we talk and start to uncover that they really aren’t wanting the “community lifestyle” of a condominium project, but still want a walkable, urban experience. That’s when the fun begins! Putting on the tour guide hat and helping people learn about what neighborhoods are out there and what sort of feel they want. It was the lack of knowledge about city neighborhoods that was really what inspired the creation of this blog.
One time, a St Louis County resident that grew up in Dutchtown was with me in the car. I asked them, “what do you think about Compton Heights?” They replied that they hadn’t ever seen the neighborhood. Having grown up exactly 2 miles away, and living in St Louis their whole life, I was both suprised and frustrated. We took a drive through the neighborhoood and they were amazed by the stunning mansions and beatifully winding streets. They weren’t looking to buy a mansion, but now they know that they exist in South City.
Last week I was showing homes in the Skinker-DeBallievere neighborhood when I passed Greg Freeman Park. I was glad to see a park named in his honor in his neighborhood. I was reminded of a truly motivating speech he had given about the need for city residents to identify and embrace the diverse groups of neighborhoods in Saint Louis City. At the time, most city residents couldn’t readily identify more than a few specific neighborhoods. Rather than St Louis neighborhoods, overall regions, “Southside”, Northside” were used. Since that presentation, public knowledge of the different neighborhoods and their gentrification have increased. Still a lack of understanding exists.
Lately, in selling St Louis City Real Estate, we cross neighborhood lines, and do our best to explain where we are and what makes that neighborhood special. We’ve also been working with many folks that work hard within their own neighborhoods to make things better every day. Our goal in the next year is to work to highlight these city neighborhoods and the activity going on to rebuild them and make them more livable for all St Louisans. That is the point of our ongoing series ‘City Neighborhoods 101.’
Look for more information coming soon!
Interestingly, the folks that seem the most suprised by the negative perception of St Louis are newer residents. They hear all these negative viewpoints, then move here and enjoy the lower cost of real estate, lower taxes, and finally find that the negative slant is less than realistic.
Of late, the city has had better press. St Louis has won awards for being a top Midwestern destination for the past 2 years, and folks are seemingly starting to appreciate what this town has to offer.
Last week me and the family took a mini vacation to Chicago for a few days. It was nice, and Chicago is an urban town that has a lot to offer. For some of the time there though, mostly while sitting in traffic, I thought, “wouldn’t it have just been nice to have a stay-cation?” After all, as a busy professional, father, & husband, rarely do I have time to stop, hang out, go to night clubs, catch plays, etc. etc. My professional life involves me talking about everything there is to do here, but I just find it hard to do it.
Today, a CNN reporter published his report on his family vacation to St Louis. What started off with some skepticism seemed to result in a great time. It seemed like there were a lot of things they still didn’t get a chance to do. My observation was that it seemed that most of what they did was in the city. Not that its a big suprise, people like the city because there’s a lot to do there. Not that the surrounding areas don’t have things to do either. The article was nice.
The urban renaissance is ongoing, and I started thinking about the things that area still in the pipeline that will make St Louis even better down the road, like the Arch Grounds project, the South Grand Great Streets Initiative, the Loop Trolley and the Blues Museum Downtown, just to name a few.
What makes St Louis a great place to visit is also what makes it a great place to live. As the article said, there’s plenty to do that’s “pretty cool”.
The “Field of Dreams” approach of “Build it and they will come” has been particularly relevant to the City of St Louis. When I graduated from High School in the late 80’s, most of my classmates were anxious to get out of town. There was nothing “cool” about living in St Louis. The interesting architecture that is often associated with the city was mostly known for being underutilized and abandoned. Washington Avenue was best known as a place to get a hooker, and the young professionals that did reside in the region were mostly attracted to suburban apartment and condo complexes with little personality or character. The notion of rebuilding the city was out there, but it seemed to be a task that was insurmountable.
The past decade or so has seen some valuable changes. It started with pioneers that came into the city and saw the value in individual homes in places like Lafayette Square, and some larger developers like Craig Heller and Kevin McGowan taking on larger projects downtown. This group of pioneers were the foundations of the changes we’ve seen to date. It was the beginning of the urban renaissance in St Louis. They made it possible for urban living to be “en vogue” and mainstream. Now when someone makes the decision to live urban, they aren’t alone.
The Urban Affairs Committee of the St Louis Association of Realtors met last month and some of the attendees there commented about being at the very first Urban Affairs committee meeting about 20 years ago. That committee now has a regular attendance of at least 20 people with an additional 20-30 members in abstentia. It started with 4 or 5 people. 5 years ago, I gained clients that would tell me stories of trying to work with Realtors but were pushed into not to living in the city (in Missouri, this activity, called “steering” is illegal). Now, I’m encouraged by agents of all types of experience that call for help in understanding the urban market.
The Census itself is a valuable information tool. Estimates of population are often disputed and inconclusive. While it may not be for everyone, City Living is making a comeback. At this point, we’ve gotten farther into the “build it” phase than anyone would have expected. Seeing projects completed each year as well as some of the new ones in the pipeline (Archgrounds, Ballpark Village), we’re witnessing a conversion of an urban area that has been remarkable, and we’re also just beginning to see the “and they will come” phase. Regardless of the census data recieved today, we’re confident that we’re only seeing the beginning of what will be a giant shift in population and and a paradigm shift in how people choose their residence.
Hmmm. More transit. More density. Less Parking. Sounds sort of ….urban.
This article from the Post Dispatch was refreshing. One of the most frustrating things about suburbia is being in malls and strip malls with hideous amounts of unused parking. These sterile asphalt tundras fill up maybe a few times a year. As the internet takes a bigger chunk out of the shoppers those days, its likely that the need for so much vacant pavement is a thing of the past entirely.
The thought that County government is becoming more conscious of the benefits of increased density, those ideas are becoming more mainstream. If that’s the case, then maybe banks will have to start looking more favorably at mixed used developments. While enjoyable to live in, banks have strict lending limits on mixed use developments that hinder their development and occupancy in some cases. FHA limits are a generous 25% commercial, while Fannie Mae limits are at 15% commercial.
In reality, these changes in county codes discussed won’t change the ‘burbs much. Its nice to see them looking in the right direction though. The county codes would only apply to unincorporated parts of the county, and would only apply to new developments. Since these areas are mostly developed already (thus the need for more density) we’re really not talking about much.
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