As big fish populate the Downtown condo pool, project count shrinks

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May 9, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: David Brauer
David Brauer

With many real estate pros anxiously watching for the first glimpse of the buyer-be-gone boogeyman, the Condo Pipeline can confidently report that the signals are mixed.

First, the total number of condo projects is ever-so-slowly shrinking: we were up to 50 this winter; now we're down to 45 because projects that have opened and left the list outnumber recently announced developments.

That's not necessarily awful: one reason for the lower number is that some newer proposals, such as the 50-story Nicollet (#21 on our map) or the 500-unit Eclipse (#16) are so darn big. You could forgive other developers for not wanting to jump in the condo pool right now.

Another bit of circumstantial evidence: we've noticed that more than a few groundbreakings have slipped a month or two from early into mid-summer. That's not necessarily earth-shattering (pardon the pun) - but it's a negative indicator we'll keep an eye on.

Some projects provide counterexamples. In North Loop, developer Shafer Richardson has moved up the estimated occupancy date on its 720 Lofts (#32) from this December to November. We almost dropped the phone when Larry Abdo, developer of Six Quebec (#43) told us that his unique Central Business District bank-to-condo conversion was down to four unsold units after having eight units available two weeks ago. The building - the one that looks like a concrete Mayan temple at 6th & Marquette - has taken its time selling, until now.

(By the way, Abdo says all those people who bugged him to reopen his newest Downtown acquisition, the Nicollet Island Inn, for weekday power breakfasts better start showing up now that he's done it!)

A big new market weathervane will arrive Sunday, May 22, when public sales begin at The Falls and The Pinnacle (#8). The prominent East Bank riverfront conversion is being done by Florida-based real estate behemoth Crescent Heights.

Back to uneasy feelings: we're not hearing back regularly from the folks at Horty Elving, the Elliot Park architects who have proposed the 20-story, 136-unit Fifth Avenue Gateway (#24) in that neighborhood.

The project received its city approvals this winter, but since then, nothing visible has happened - not even one of the favorite bread crumbs of developers wanting to show momentum, the announcement that a sales trailer is "opening soon."

The lack of movement has the pros wondering if the Gateway will be "the one" - a project whose demise signals a stablized, less-frenetic market. Then again, Horty Elving has been in Elliot Park longer than almost anyone else, so perhaps they are again displaying patience.

In any event, Mr. Horty, please call us back!

Speaking of sales trailers, one for The Sexton (#31) opens Thursday, May 12 at 7th Street & Portland Avenue. This is not hype - it's for real.

In other closely watched projects, the developers of Elliot Park's Skyscape (#22) say they are 45 percent sold, and Cobalt (#26), the splashy new project by Surdyk's on the East Bank, is wrapping up lengthier-than-expected asbestos removal before demolition and earth-turning this summer.

Remember, the Condo Pipeline is organized so that the projects closest to reality carry bigger numbers, and the ones at earlier stages have lower numbers. The higher the number, the less speculative - usually.

E-mail or call 436-4371 with the skinny on any Downtown projects or to clue us in on what we're missing.