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 Investigating the Old North Neighborhood
By: Darin "Sid" Cameron, CRS
Wed, Dec 14th, 2005 11:54 am

I'm currently working on a project for some of our rehab investors putting together information on the Old North neighborhood just north of the dome and downtown.  I really think there is a lot of potential for real estate investors in Old North right now- especially since prices for investment projects in South City are beginning to get out of hand.

So below are my notes on the neighborhood for you to see:

Below is a link to a map of the North half of the Old North St. Louis neighborhood.

(Editor's Note: Link removed as it was a dead link)

To put this in perspective, Crown Candy (a landmark turn of the century candy store that's still in business) is at 14th and St. Louis Ave just South of the “A” section at the bottom of the map.

They have a couple of larger players already working in the South half of the neighborhood (closer to the dome), but nothing more than the "one man shows" up North, which is why the neighborhood development committee is trying to find someone for up there.

The South half is very different from the North.  Most of the Southern section of the district is empty lots- entire blocks with only one or two houses left.  There are a couple of active factories there as well.  This is where Renaissance (or Pyramid) was building and rehabbing.

In my opinion, the attraction to working in the South half is it’s proximity to the high profile Bottle District project that's about to begin, as well as Pinnacle Casino and their hotels and condo projects.

The Bottle District, one started, is large enough that it will bring some buyer traffic to the area- how far north it will extend though is still questionable.  Unfortunately, I missed the unveiling of the Bottle District, so I only know a little about the project.  If you're a real estate investor reading this I'd suggest researching it to understand how you can play off of it prior to making a commitment.

The downside to the Southern half of that neighborhood is there would be very little rehabbing projects since so many of the homes are now gone.  If you'd like to know more, shoot Kimberly or myself an email or phone call and we'd be happy to talk about it.

The North half of the Old North neighborhood looks a lot like South City- old intact homes needing restoration.  Age and quality can vary drastically, but there is quite a bit of inventory to be had (and cheap).

One problem is that there has been some “unknown” investors who have been snatching up properties to sit on them.  You might need to pressure LRA to seize some stuff back or else you're not going to control enough homes to bring the neighborhood back.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group (that area’s version of DeSales) doesn’t want to use eminent domain.  However I think pushing for it on empty buildings wouldn’t be too much of a problem since the properties are owned by speculators (vs. owner-occupied).

The positives for the neighborhood as a whole would have to be proximity to I-70, downtown, the future I-70 river bridge (if ever built), and all of the high profile developments to the South near the dome (which I just discussed).  Again, we're happy to talk to any investor who wants to know more.

The biggest downside I can see to working in the neighborhood is public perception.  South City seems to have cornered the market for mind-share as the place to go for rehabbed homes and that's going to be hard to break.  I also can’t help but to wonder what rebranding the area as the “Candy District” (in honor of Crown Candy) would do to help drive neighborhood awareness.

The other area for a real estate investor to evaluate is the walking mall business district (retail).  There are only 1 or 2 buildings actively being used- most of it is owned by the city.  I find it IMPOSSIBLE to believe there isn’t some federal money out there to do something with this area.

No matter what, before I got too far into rehabbing homes in Old North, I would want to figure out a marketing strategy on how I would answer questions about the mall.  If you had pretty drawings about the “future” of the business district, I think it would be easier to sell the residential stuff.

One other property to note.

They have (or had) an old warehouse building in the North section right off of I-70 that was actively being used up until a year ago.  It’s currently empty and cheap (at least from a cost per sq foot standpoint.  Might be an option for loft conversion but it might be too far North to actually sell.  However it's at least worth evaluating it.

Hope this helps bring opportunities to light for someone.

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Darin "Sid" Cameron spent 15 years working in the technology industry which in 1998 relocated him to St. Louis. In 2004 he took over web development tasks for Kimberly's real estate team and later became the full-time Marketing and Operations Director in 2005. In 2011 Sid launched two brokerages, The Realty Store, Inc. and Realty Referral Partners, Inc, while continuing to perform marketing and operations for Kimberly's team. Sid holds a real estate broker's license in Missouri, CRS certification and was the first CyberStar in the St. Louis area.
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