Downtown Revitalization and Commercial Real Estate Franchise Site Location Analysis

Even before the US Congress and the Obama Administration slated nearly a trillion dollars for economic stimulus, cities across America joined each other in spirit to curb economic blight and urban flight in downtowns nation-wide.

Today, economic decay in our country’s cities is going away. Downtown revitalization projects are bringing people back to the cities, spending money, and shopping downtown once more. Generally speaking there are lots of incentives in these areas for new businesses including inexpensive loans with low interest rates and guarantees.

But that’s not all, many offer marketing help too, through the local co-op plans run by the Economic Development Association. This means if you are considering on opening a franchised outlet of a major brand, opportunity abounds. Franchisors are well advised to take the offers of such Economic Development Associations, Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, and Downtown Revitalization projects seriously, as they are offering some serious incentives indeed.

Consider if you will the types of retail franchises or sit down outdoor eatery type franchised outlets that succeed in such touristy type markets. See if these franchisors have other locations in refurbished urban areas, and see if they are indeed turning a good profit. If so, go visit a few of these locations and talk to the franchisees, and see if this makes sense.

If it checks out, then go to step two and look over the Franchise Disclosure Documents and sit down with the local representatives from the city, perhaps go to a Mayor’s round table meeting and looking into it more. You might just find that this is a perfect time to jump in on the bottom floor and secure a franchise of your own?

Evaluating The Different Options Available For Downtown Austin Condos

Downtown Austin is growing faster than ever. Well, maybe not ever, but more than in the last 14 years I have lived here. The city council and the community in gereral is pushing for growing the downtown into a live-work area with high density, shops downstairs, and living upstairs. The term is “multi-use” and it is pretty much pretty much the montra for Austin real estate. There are 10+ condo projects going up in the next couple years that cater to the different appeals of living in downtown Austin.

A couple condos are situated at the turn of the river in downtown Austin, taking advantage of views down the river. The first time I saw the views, I was pretty surprised. You can see all the way down the river from the Congress bridge, past the Lamar Bridge, and past downtown. One nice aspect about these places is that there is not much chance of anything being built in the way of the river view since you are at the bend. The two places are called The Milago and The Shores. The Milago is right at the bend of the river with only the Town Lake Trail between it and the water. If you want protected river views, The Milago is pretty much it. Also, to get any views, you need to be above the trees and that is at about the 6th floor as well as on the west side of the building; the east side of the building pretty much has nothing interesting right now. The Shores has a similar view corridor down the river and to the west and is a little more north of the Milago. It has the Mexican-American cultural center being built in front of it and has a low-rise, older townhome project that poses no threat as of now to block the view. This building is not as rectangular as The Milago so more of the units have some sort of view, whether it be the river or downtown.

Moving on to a another downtown Austin condo sector. Some hotels are renovating the top floors of their places or building new high-rises next-door to accommodate those who want more high-end services associated with hotels. They will have room service available, workout facilities, concierge, and whatnot. The Hilton probably has the most upper end units right now called the Five Fifty Five. To name a couple slick attributes, they feature wolf ovens, wood floors, 24hr. concierge & security, and walls of windows viewing Austin downtown. They have a couple penthouses left.

The other downtown Austin aspect of living that some condos will be banking on is the trend to live near walkable shops and restaurants. Clarksville is a neighborhood thriving around some shops and restaurants on West Lynn as well as the 6th & Lamar area. It is probably the closest actual neighborhood (meaning houses too) to downtown to the west. There’s a local shop to walk to on West Lynn, and if you want more of a supermarket, the Whole Foods mothership headquarters complete with ice rink is at the corner of 6th & Lamar along with REI, Waterloo Records, Amys Ice Cream, and other fun stuff. The Nokonah is right there in the midst of all that. It was built in 2001, so it is all resale at this point, but a good location with concierge and security.

And of course, people just want to live by cool areas. Austin’s South Congress is known for probably being the hippest street in Austin. It is so cool it has been abbreviated to be called SoCo. A couple different condo projects are popping up around that area. Most are the loft, slick style that blends with the SoCo area. One is practically the neighbor of a popular restaurant and club. It’s a smaller condo project at only 14 units available and starting at 380K. A larger condo projects is being developed further down south called the SoCo Lofts. These will have bamboo floors and stainless appliances. They will not really be walkable to the SoCo shopping area but will be creating its own multi-use shopping, retail, and restaurants. Since they are a little more south from the sought-after SoCo strip of shops, they are a more affordable option, starting at 225K for a 1-1.

Another area in the south that is trying to model itself after SoCo is being coined as SoLa, or South Lamar. SoLa is parallel to SoCo and about 2 main streets west. It is not as dense with shops but city plans are in the works to rezone almost everything along the street between the river south to 71 to be multi-use. It could be pretty cool and much more expansive than the current SoCo. There are various condos planned to take advantage of the new SoLa. One is just south of the river called The Magnolia. They’ve already begun construction and are moving fast, targeting completion by July 2008. The funny story behind this location is that it used to be a Wendy’s.

It will be interesting to watch Austin develop over the next several years. There are a number of downtown Austin Condos but the new ones that are coming online should widen the selection for people interested in living downtown. Additionally, the increased density should allow for more small shops and businesses to set up shop downtown which will hopefully make downtown a more walkable interesting location for years to come.

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.