Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Innovate + Real Estate: Velux YO-YO Blinds

These new pleated YO-YO blinds by Velux run on slender lateral guides in satined aluminium, leaving the two ends free. The system allows them to be stretched out completely, moved downwards, to the centre or the top, to control the amount of light entering the room. Also available in a “protect and obscure” version that consists of a black-out blind and an outer sunscreen.

Very cool if I do say so myself...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Going Green: Tip - Save Energy and Money on Summer A/C

Tom Ochsner, of Thermal Vision Home Energy Audits, offers these tips to help you save energy and money this summer:

1. Clean the leaves out of the air conditioner outside unit.

2. Spray a mild soap solution on the unit and hose it off to remove dirt from the fins too.

3. Instead of using costly AC, create a natural convection current to cool your house - open the top windows on the upper level sunny side or down wind side of the house. Open the bottom windows on the lowest level of the house on the shady or upwind side of the house.

4. Reduce air infiltration - the basement foundation can be a huge source of air infiltration. If you see spider webs on the top of your basement walls you probably have openings. Seal the sill plate/rim joist area with caulk or expanding spray foam to reduce air leakage and keep out ants and spiders.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Innovate + Real Estate: Produce Design

Produce Design creates some awesome pieces. The company is comprised of three young architects in Brooklyn, New York. They fabricate everything in Brooklyn. At present, they are in the process of producing furniture that will be mass produced and sold to the world market.

This pot and pan rack is a perfect example of innovative re-use. A reclaimed beam is milled for a magnetic knife holder and fins that hang pots below. Trays in the top accommodate the knife magnet, lid storage, and spice storage and display. The rack is available in a variety of wood species and is easily installed with no alteration to existing walls.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another Loft Project Bites the Dust...

Well, I guess not completely. The Park Pacific development has eliminated all 140 "for sale" lofts and instead will have 193 rental units. The rental market downtown has been extremely hot, and the project will still add density, so I'd say it's a good thing. They can always change down the road and offer them for sale...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rumor Mill: Plaza Frontenac Adding Stores

Word on the street is that Juicy Couture and Kate Spade will be opening stores at Plaza Frontenac; Juicy by November, and Kate Spade by next spring. Teavana, which offers more than 100 varieties of loose-leaf teas, among other things, also plans to open in Plaza Frontenac by September.

Juicy Couture and Kate Spade will take over the space held by Talbots Kids. Also rumored is a Burberry that will take over the Talbots Mens store...

Boulevard Heights

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had an article about Boulevard Heights, a joint project between Rowles Homes and CF Vatterott Construction. It's slated to have 44 homes, 48 condominiums, and 33 townhouses.

I have long been intrigued by the project - first, because it's an awesome neighborhood that hasn't seen any new construction - at all, since the 1950s. Second, I have always been fascinated with the site. It was originally owned by the St. Louis Public schools, and at one time housed greenhouses for a horticulture program. The site had been dormant for years before a plan was proposed by Lawless Homes in January 2005 that called for a gated community called The Cascades. Luckily that plan was shot down, and Rowles came forward.

To date, four homes and four townhouses have been built, and everytime I drive by, I was curious why it hasn't progressed very quickly - which is precisely what the Post-Dispatch addressed in their article.

Apparently, there were two mysteries that couldn't be solved: where the water from the 11-acre tract was draining, and why topological maps of the area showed a ravine when the tract appeared flat.

Rowles and CF Vatterot solved the mystery, and things look to be progessing. Interest in the project has been strong according to Larry Rowles.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Article

Where was the water from the 11-acre tract draining? And why did topological maps of the area show a ravine when the tract looked flat?

Wind Farms

Yahoo News had an interesting article on Wind Farms today, centered around a farm in our lovely state of Missouri, in Rockport. The defintion of a windfarm, according to the all knowing Wikipedia, "is a group of wind turbines in the same location used for production of electric power. Individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage (usually 34.5 kV) power collection system and communications network. At a substation, this medium-voltage electrical current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage transmission system. A large wind farm may consist of a few dozen to about 100 individual wind turbines, and cover an extended area of hundreds of square miles (square kilometers), but the land betwen the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. A wind farm may be located off-shore to take advantage of strong winds blowing over the surface of an ocean or lake."

Wind farms only account for 1% of U.S. electricity, but they appear to be gaining in popularity and support. Eric Chamberlain, who manages the Rockport, Missouri wind farm points out an extremely valid point: it doesn't pollute the environment, it provides tax revenue, and creates jobs.

The wind farm in Rockport is managed by Wind Capitol Group, whose corporate offices are in downtown Saint Louis. Their company strategy is building wind farms with a project strategy that places serious focus on community involvement and developing relationships to guide a project toward success.

As many things are continually trying to be more "green," I see wind energy as a very up and coming solution.

Yahoo Story

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nobody Asked Me But...

Why can't Downtown Saint Louis recognize the success of Clayton and take some tips? I've mentioned before that Clayton impresses me. It's just 2.5 square miles, but the skyline is amazing. In my terminology, Clayton "gets it." It's an awesome urban area, and on any given night, people are out in full force, and it looks like a major city's downtown. It continues to be the premier business location the Saint Louis Metro area, which is really kind of a shame for Downtown Saint Louis.

On top of that...consider all of the cranes that will be abound in Clayton in the coming years...

Brown Shoe
Franke Building Hotel
Shaw Park Pointe
If all of that office space was Downtown? All of those employees looking to eat and shop...imagine the possibilities...

It Starts With the Foundation : Redi Footing

If you've ever built a deck , you know what a pain in the rear footings are. For those of you that just asked yourselves, "what's a footing," let me explain. The footing is the most essential part of a deck. The foundation sits on the footings. In order to construct a footing, you must dig a hole roughly 30" to 36" deep. You then fill the holes with concrete, and let the concrete dry. You also have to wait for the dreaded inspector to stop by and give the A-Ok to your footings.

Redi Footing has changed the game with their prefabricated plastic footings. This plastic pier footing product is intended to speed the construction up so you can eliminate the above steps. With Redi Footing's product, you dig the holes, set the piers, and backfill.

One precaution from the manufacturer: the pipe must be completely buried or UV light will cause it to deteriorate.

Housing Woes Lure Back Bold Buyers

From the Christian Science Monitor...

The depressed housing market is now attracting buyers who look at boarded-up homes, rising foreclosures, and falling values and see, not disaster, but a rich opportunity.

They have cash so they don't need to go to the bank. The homes they're eyeing are selling at 2004 prices or lower. And they are certain – make that almost certain – that they will profit from the nation's real estate problems.

While the buying doesn't herald the bottom in home prices, nor will it help most people facing foreclosure, real estate experts say it is plucking some "for sale" signs out of the nation's front yards. It's also providing some needed cash for real estate developers. And it's helping banks unload unproductive properties, which might start to free up some of their capital so they can make more loans.

Full Story

Housing Starts Post Surprise Rate

From the Wall Street Journal...

Home construction turned up unexpectedly in April and showed surprising vigor, making the biggest increase in two years. However, the increase was driven by a surge in multi-family housing, while single-family starts dropped.

Housing starts increased 8.2% to a seasonally adjusted 1.032 million annual rate, driven higher by a surge in apartment building construction, the Commerce Department said Friday. Starts plunged 13.8% in March to 954,000, the data showed; Commerce initially estimated March starts down 11.9% to 947,000.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected April starts to drop by 1.4% to a 934,000-unit annual rate. The 8.2% increase was the largest monthly climb since a 14.0% jump in January 2006. But year over year, housing starts were 30.6% below the level of construction in April 2007.

Full Story

Will Upgrading Your Home Help You Sell It?

From The New York Times...

If you're putting your home on the market anytime soon, you may want to rethink those plans to bump out the kitchen or add an extra bath.

During the housing boom, such ambitious projects would recoup as much as 90 cents on the dollar. Not today. The resale value of improvements in general is sliding, according to experts. In a departure from recent trends, homeowners are getting the best payback from relatively mundane improvements, such as sprucing up the exterior of their house or putting in new windows.

The slumping housing market has made remodeling much trickier. When house prices were climbing ever higher, buyers knew they could spend big bucks to expand their homes and still make a profit when it came time to sell. But today, a buyer who spends unwisely on remodeling may be simply digging a deeper hole when it comes time to move.

Full Story

Friday, May 16, 2008

No More Appliances From General Electric ?

The New York Times is reporting that General Electric Co. may sell or seek a partner for the unit that makes refrigerators and washers, ending more than a century in an industry that helped make GE a household name, people familiar with the situation said.

GE, the biggest maker of appliances for new U.S. homes, hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to explore options that include a spinoff or auction, according to one of the people, who declined to be identified by name. A sale may bring $5 billion to $8 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Prices for some appliances have tumbled on an inflation- adjusted basis over more than a half century. In 1953, an 11- cubic-foot refrigerator was advertised for more than $500, the equivalent of about $3,900 now. Today, a basic 18.2-cubic-foot GE model lists for as little as $519 on the NexTag.com Web site.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Going Green: Greening Your Home

EarthWays Center is hosting a Green event in which Local green homebuilding experts will discuss performance characteristics, cost benefits and construction methods associated with structural building materials increasingly used in green-certified home projects. Materials such as SIPs, ICFs, composite I-beams, and recycled plastic composite lumber.

The event takes place May 21st, at 7pm, and is $20 for members, $25 for non-members.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Concrete Art Floors by Transparent House

Transparent House has some amazing designs that can be conceptyalized in the application of a pattern to a concrete surface - either during the pouring, or after. I have a loft lising right now with some beautifully stained concrete, but this is taking it to a whole other level. Absolutely beautiful and extremely intriguing. How cool would it would be in a finished basement ?!?!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greetings From Mexico

My apologies that the posts have been quite sparse lately. I am in Tulum, Mexico and being here along with getting everything ready to leave left me in quite a tizzy. It seems that everytime I go on a tropical vacation, I ponder whether I can up and move from good ole St. Louie and make a career out of real estate in the land of sand.

I constantly find myself wondering how anyone can concentrate on anything other than relaxing and laying on the beach.

As you can see from the photos, however, people do it! Paradise Properties? Indeed...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Going Green: Tip - Get the Most Gas For Your Money

1. Only fill up your auto in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. All service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground, the more dense the gasoline. As the ground warms, gasoline expands, and so buying in the afternoon or in the evening... your gallon is not exactly a gallon.

2. When you're filling up, use the slowest speed; do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. The trigger has 3 stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode, vapors created by pumping are minimized. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping quickly, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor and gets sucked back into the underground storage tank.

3. Most importantly, fill up when your tank is half full. The reason is that the more gas you have in your tank, the less air you have occupying the empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine.

4. Last, if there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up -- Most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as more pours into the tanks, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.

[Submitted by Jessica Ingraham]

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Housing Rescue Package Slated For House Vote

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A broad housing rescue package aimed at preventing foreclosures would have the government step in to insure up to $300 billion in new mortgages for struggling homeowners.

The plan, designed to stabilize a key sector of the shaky economy, is set for a House vote Wednesday. It would let the Federal Housing Administration insure more affordable fixed-rate loans for borrowers currently too financially strapped to qualify. The White House says President Bush would veto the measure, calling it a burdensome bailout that would open taxpayers to too much risk. That's despite Democrats' attempts to attract Republican support by including a grab-bag of measures Bush has called for. They include legislation to overhaul the Federal Housing Administration, the Depression-era mortgage insurer, and to more tightly regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that finance home loans. Also part of the plan is a measure, which Bush has repeatedly requested, allowing state and local housing finance agencies to use tax-exempt bonds to refinance distressed subprime mortgages.

Full Story

Monday, May 5, 2008

Arsonist in North Saint Louis?

There have been 10 fires in the heart of Saint Louis Place in the last few days. Saint Louis Place is the neighborhood at the center of of Paul McKee's quest for a giant batch of city property to re-develop in North Saint Louis.

I'm going to guess that a lot of readers currently scanning this have no idea who Paul McKee is. Mr. McKee is the assumed and speculated owner of Blairmont Associates LC, who own over 1000 acres in the North Saint Louis Fifth and Nineteenth Wards. McKee is president of McEagle Properties - the developer behind WingHaven in St. Charles County. He's also co-owner of Paric Corporation, a construction company, and is the board chairman of BJC HealthCare.

The story behind McKee, Blairmont, and the numerous other companies that seem to trace back to McKee is an extemely intriguing and mysterious story. The Riverfront Times did two stories on the situation - "Phantom of Hood - Part One, and Part Two." I highly recommend reading them. You can also check out the Post-Dispatch fire story.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Like Ice Cream?

The building that formerly housed KaBloom Florist at Grand and Arsenal is set to become Emack & Bolio's, and ice cream parlor. It will be the first E&B in Saint Louis, with their other Missouri location being in Springfield. Emack & Bolio's started in Boston in 1975, and according to The Boston Globe, "Emack & Bolio's is part of Boston history. Its health-conscious fare, recalls the heyday of both Boston's ice cream and music scenes in the mid-1970s. Check out their website for an extremely intriguing history.

Interest Rates on the Move

Interest rates dropped a bit overnight. Conventional 30 year fixed can be had at 5.875% and FHA 30 year fixed is at 6%. If you have been indecisive about that home you have your eye on, now is the time to make the move!

Going Green: St. Louis Earth Day Water Symposium 2008

The St. Louis Earth Day Water Symposium will take place Wednesday May 7, from 8am to 4:30pm at the J.C. Penny Building on the University of Missouri - St. Louis campus. A variety of panelists will address site design, the ShowMe Rain Gardens, low-impact development, green technologies, water quality and other topics. It's sure to be a informative and intriguing day. The cost is $75 in advance, or $90 at the door.