Stepping Up Downtown Revitalization

The Need to Step Up Downtown Revitalization

An old saying goes something like this: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This saying applies to the places we live. While some people may love the South because of their mild winters, others may despise their humid summers. Some people may love to live downtown because of the great night life, while others would prefer a place away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Some qualities, however, remain a constant in finding a place to live. Everyone wants a safe neighborhood, good neighbors, and proximity to schools and stores. Traditionally, all of these could be found in the downtown areas of our American cities. Unfortunately today, many downtowners find themselves living in substandard housing, in areas of the city that are obviously falling apart socially, economically and physically.

Imagine how it would be to wake up every morning to the smell of dog urine, feeling a cold wind coming in from the broken glass of your window. You know that there isn’t much for breakfast, so you decide to stay in bed. Somehow, you think, maybe if you go back to sleep for a while, things will be better when you wake up.

Or, imagine that you awake one morning to the smell of pancakes cooking and coffee brewing in the kitchen. As you get out of bed, your new bedroom carpet greets your feet.

Is it any wonder that one of these scenarios is more likely to produce a person that will do well in school, find a good job, and be a productive citizen?

Studies have shown that the environment in which a person lives can have a positive or negative impact on that person’s behavior. For example, a person living in an area that is well cared for will be more motivated to do his or her part to take care of the area. A person who lives in an area that is falling apart will have less motivation to take care of the area, and could actually contribute to the area’s degradation.

Go into almost any modern suburb, and it won’t be long before you see construction workers with their hard hats and leather gloves, building a new strip mall or Wal-Mart. At the same time, there is another store closing its doors downtown and moving out, creating yet another vacant building in the middle of the city. This sounds crazy, until you stop and look at the bottom line. The stores are going to go where the people are, and the people are also leaving downtown for the suburbs. Why would someone want to live downtown, when it is falling apart and they can have a bigger house with a bigger yard in the suburbs?

Until lately, the government hasn’t stepped in to do anything about this downtown decay. In fact, states often adopt policies that encourage suburban sprawl, disinvestment in downtowns, and disparities. Few regions in the United States have incorporated government organizations for the strategic planning of cities. The government, like the person in the first example above, seems to be pulling the sheets over its head and hoping that all the problems will just go away by themselves.

Can we blame the government for what has happened over the last 40 years to our downtowns? Elected officials only hold their positions for a few years at a time, and investing big money in downtown revitalization may not produce the instant economic gains that are required to earn reelection. As stated by Beth Mattson-Teig in her article, Financing Urban Revitalization,

“Redevelopment is much more costly than building on open suburban acreage. Additional capital is required to assemble land, raze or renovate existing structures, and clean up any environmental contamination. As a result, revitalization projects typically involve multifaceted layering of bank and commercial mortgage financing, public grants or low interest loans, tax abatements, private equity, tax credits, and other forms of subordinated debt.” (Urban Land, March 2002)

Even in a rough economy, some are seeing advantages of returning downtown. Retailers, who during the 90’s were building stores rapidly without much consideration for location, are now becoming selective. The downtown areas are great for retailers, with relatively low rent for space and a good amount of potential buyers. Another idea that is working is that of renovating old warehouses and other buildings, creating multi-use structures. There can be living quarters in the upper levels (apartments and condominiums), and commercial space on the first floor. This idea faces some opposition because many of the current two-dimensional zoning laws are not complex enough to handle multi-use buildings.

Another ray of hope for downtowns comes in the form of its residents, both people and businesses. These businesses have a strong interest in keeping the downtown alive, because they need a quality city in order to attract quality workers. Some civic groups have had a lot of success, assisting in the development of many key downtown projects or investing in the public school systems. Those interested in helping their downtown areas improve should become involved in these organizations or in local government.

Downtowns are precious links to the history of cities, and at one time they were the place to be. Although downtowns have suffered, many cities are rediscovering the benefits of downtown revitalization. With increasing public awareness of the problems affecting downtowns, local and state governments are more likely to invest public money in much needed urban renewal projects. Hopefully, someday, we will be singing the old familiar tune:

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely

You can always go – downtown

When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry

Seems to help, I know – downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city

Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty

How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go downtown, things will be great when you’re

Downtown – no finer place, for sure

Downtown – everything’s waiting for you.

Downtown, by Petula Clark

San Diego’s Best Downtown Condos: The Legend Vs The Mark

The newly created Ballpark District in Downtown San Diego is quickly emerging as the newest hotspot to live in San Diego. Spurned from the development of the new San Diego Petco Baseball Park, home of The San Diego Padres, this newly formed neighborhood is comprised of hip restaurants, bars, shops, and a variety of condo developments.

We are frequently asked which condo building in the Ballpark District is the best. In order to answer that question, it is only appropriate to break the buildings into two separate and distinctive categories, low/mid rises and high rises. The balance of this article will focus on the “best” high rises, in the San Diego Downtown Real Estate Market. (For the purposes of this article, high rises are described as being 13 stories and above)

While the answer contained herein is completely subjective, Real Estate Agent Todd Deboer and Real Estate Broker Joe Marcotte, have discussed information gathered from current owners, renters, personal experiences, and interaction with on site management staff to qualify our findings. With that said, The Legend, built by Bosa Development Corp in 2007, and The Mark, built by Douglas Wilson in 2007, are a cut above the rest.

While both communities offer a high quality product, there are very distinct differences between them that are important to understand before making that all important decision to buy.

First, The Mark is located at 800 The Mark Lane, taking up a whole city block between 8th and 9th Ave. and between Market St. and Island Ave. The Mark is also the tallest residential tower in the Ballpark District and towers 33 stories above ground containing 233 high rise tower condos and 11 townhomes.

The modernistic exterior of The Mark is show cased with titanium looking skin that creates a very contemporary and clean look.

The interior of the units have a chic, urban industrial feel accentuated by exposed concrete in the units and common areas as well as large floor to ceiling windows.

The Mark has more than 30 floor plans to choose from, allowing a great deal of flexibility for buyers wanting a large variety. One bedroom units range from 739 sq. ft. to over 1000 sq. ft. and sell in the low $300Ks to the high $400Ks respectively. 2 bedrooms, 2 bath units start at 1126 sq. ft. and go up to 2011 sq. ft., prices ranging from the high $400ks to units over $2M.

All one bedrooms come with one parking space underground and some of the one bedrooms come with two parking spaces. Every 2 bedroom condo comes with 2 side-by-side parking spaces underground. The townhomes, located on the ground floor, create an interior courtyard affect accentuated by the very popular common area amenities. All of the Townhomes are 2 stories, 2 bedroom, 2 baths, 1585 sq. ft. and sell in the mid $500ks.

All units come with a separate storage locker and most units have balconies some of which are amongst the largest that downtown has to offer. However, at the time of this article, the HOA does not permit cooking grills of any kind. HOA fees are based on square footage and run from the mid $600/month to $800/month.

Condos at The Mark all feature granite counters, top of the line stainless steel appliances and upgraded, rich colored cabinetry. The flooring varies among the units from hardwood floors to tile and carpet. There is a vast array of view planes from units at The Mark ranging from courtyard and city views to the highly coveted and unparalleled ballpark and water views.

The Mark is an amenity rich community, featuring 24 hour security, concierge, on-site general manager, business conference room, state-of-the-art fitness center, resort-like grounds with pool, spa, barbeque grills, cabanas and a lawn area where you can find residents playing bocce ball or croquet during the day. The aforementioned Pool is considered the most energetic of all pools in the Downtown San Diego Real Estate Market due to its constant exposure to sunlight and its inviting surrounding and amenities.

The demographic at The Mark is very diverse, ranging from young professionals living downtown to those looking for a 2nd home or an ultimate retirement destination. The Mark’s convenient Ballpark District location allows residents to be close to the entertainment at Petco Park, and the night life of the world renowned Gaslamp Quarter.

From an investment standpoint, The Mark is a very popular place for prospective tenants to live. Rents for 1 bedrooms at The Mark start at about $1700/month and 2 bedrooms units start in the mid $2K range and move up accordingly from there depending on size and view.

The units located above the 12th floor on the southwest corner of the building have some of the most exclusive views to be found in the San Diego Condo Market. Residents in these units can experience a view of the game, San Diego Bay, and Downtown Skyline all within the confines of their units.

The Legend, built in 2007 by Bosa Development and located at 325 7th Ave. is one of the most popular high rise towers in all of downtown. It is the only high rise condominium tower in all of the United States built within the gates of a professional baseball park. This was accomplished by Bosa Development Corporation who bought the land directly from the Padres.

The Legend tower and townhomes total 178 individual condos and the tower covers 23 stories. The lavish amenities include: 24 hour security, concierge, pool/spa, sauna, steam room, men’s and women’s locker rooms and showers, and the ultimate common area amenity in all of downtown, and arguably anywhere in any city, is the 3200 sq. ft. rooftop deck located on top of the 7th floor of the mid-rise extension. This aforementioned party deck comes complete with unobstructed views into Petco Park during Padres games and all of the other exciting entertainment that comes to the stadium. This amazing entertainment area offers fire pits, flat screen TV’s, indoor and outdoor kitchens, and a state of the art central entertainment center. The luxury of moving back and forth from your owner’s condo to the party deck cannot be overstated. In reality, it’s better than having season tickets to the Padres!

The location of the Legend is ideal. Within a moment’s stroll of the front door are all of the new shops and restaurants in the newly emerging Ballpark District as well as the world renowned Gaslamp Quarter with all of its splendor and nightlife. The base of The Legend also contains commercial space occupied by a hip wine bar, Gastro Pub, and other desirable retail tenants.

The Legend consists of ten 1 bedrooms on lower floors and 2 bedroom, 2 bath units ranging from 927-1234 sq ft. priced from the high $400Ks to $700K. On the higher floors there are a limited number of penthouse units which are 2 bedrooms +den, 2.5 baths and are roughly 1500 sq. ft. There are also a number of townhomes surrounding the community which are 2 bedrooms + den, 2.5 baths, 3 stories, and approximately 1800 sq. ft.

All units come with a balcony and feature granite counters, stainless steel GE Monogram appliances and hardwood floors in the living areas. Buyers can decide on units with views of the city, San Diego Bay and the ocean, Petco Park and a combination of all three. Another thing to keep in mind when looking at Legend condos is that not all 2 bedrooms come with 2 parking spaces but they all at least have 1 parking space underground.

The demographic at The Legend is quite diverse, ranging from younger professionals living and working downtown to 2nd home residents looking for a fun and exciting get away.

1 bedroom units rent for approximately $2K/month and the 2 bedrooms range from the mid $2K range to well over $3K/month depending on the size and views of the unit.

As you can see, both The Mark and The Legend offer a very luxurious product conveniently located in the heart of the Ballpark District, Downtown San Diego’s most vibrant neighborhood. Although they do complement each other as being the two premier condominium high rise towers in the area, they are distinctive in style, price, and amenity packages.

Downtown San Diego Growth

I marvel at the transformation of downtown in the last decade. Once a sleepy little town, downtown San Diego is vibrant with activity. As the economy flourished in the 2000s, so did downtown’s development. With recent growth came residential high rises that beautified our skyline and contributed to the live/work community we know today. In fact, the boom began in 2001 and is responsible for approximately 80% of downtown’s residential buildings, constructed between the years of 2000 and 2008. They are a combination of low, mid, and high-rise buildings.

Downtown’s residential development began with two low-rise buildings, Park Row (1983) and Marina Park (1984). These two communities are two and four stories high, lushly landscaped with beautiful gardens and outdoor walkways. Both are adjacent to Pantoja Park, a favorite of the locals. Next came two high rises, the Meridian (1986) encompassing 172 elegant residential units, and Harbor Club (1992) with twin towers 41 stories high, built on downtown’s “front row”. What followed were two mid-rises, Watermark (1992) and City Front Terrace (1994). An elegant beauty, Watermark is constructed of concrete and steel, unique for a mid-rise. A portion of City Front Terrace is built as part of the historic Soap Factory warehouse, ten stories high, and all brick! All six communities are built within the Marina District, and close walking distance to the biggest attraction in downtown at the time, Horton Plaza shopping mall (1985).

Some of the first construction of downtown was the El Cortez (1926) on Cortez Hill, and Samuel Fox Lofts (1929) located in Gaslamp, the heart of the city. Originally built as a hotel, the El Cortez is now a historic landmark, and sold as condominiums. Samuel Fox Lofts rarely has condominiums available for sale. While all of these developments are close to downtown’s core business district, later developments (2000s) pushed the outer edges of the city, extending downtown’s neighborhoods to Columbia and East Village. Two recently built residential communities in Columbia are Sapphire(2008) and Bayside (2009), both luxury high rises offering resort-like amenities, concierge service, pool, spa, sauna, library, fitness center, wine room, and 24 hour security to name a few.

Many downtown high rises have built-in commercial/retail space, separated from residences with street level entrances. In these commercial/retail spaces, you’ll find businesses that include corporate offices, restaurants, hair salons, and cafes. Horizons, Pinnacle, Alta, and the Meridian are examples of residential communities that have storefront businesses as part of their buildings. For example, Pinnacle is home to well known Richard Walker’s Pancake House.

Whichever community you choose to live and/or work, you’ll find convenient shopping, available services, parks, recreation, theaters, and restaurants all within short walking distance. Whether it’s a stroll along Market where you’ll see tree lined streets decorated in blue lights during winter holidays, lounging in Children’s Park with its elaborate water fountains, attending a baseball game at Petco Park, or taking a yoga class, you’ll love and feel the energy from this blossoming urban city.