The “Gateway to The West” is Officially Closed

The office district is deserted with boarded-up towers, rampant copper theft, and failing retail. The city is urgently trying to reverse this decline.

The “Gateway to The West” is Officially Closed

The office district is deserted with boarded-up towers, rampant copper theft, and failing retail. The city is urgently trying to reverse this decline.

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Good morning. Welcome to the weekend edition of CRE Daily.

  • 📰 Feature: Downtown faces fading foot traffic.

  • Catch up: The most-read stories from the week

  • 👍️ Reviews: 4 new product reviews on CREDaily.com

  • 📈 Chart: Visualizing America’s shortage of affordable homes

Today’s issue is brought to you by Calvera Income and Growth Fund. Learn more about their first acquisition and investment opportunity in Dallas.

DOOM LOOP

The Gateway to the West Closed as Downtown St. Louis Struggles

The Real Estate Nightmare Unfolding in Downtown St. Louis

Many offices are empty, and shops and restaurants have closed in downtown St. Louis. (Photo: WSJ)

Downtown St. Louis, Missouri's "Gateway to the West" is grappling with empty office towers, shuttered shops, and a pervasive sense of decay in the city’s business district.

Sad, sorry scene: In the heart of downtown St. Louis, the historic Railway Exchange Building—once bustling with office workers and shoppers—now sits desolate with boarded-up windows and graffiti. The closure of once-booming businesses like the 44-story AT&T Tower, just sold for a meager $3.5M, and the exodus of office tenants have sparked a downward spiral of decline in the area.

The Railway Exchange is now empty and ground-floor windows are covered with steel plates in an effort to deter thieves and squatters.

Economic struggles: Efforts to rejuvenate the area have been challenging and often unsuccessful. The city has attempted to attract businesses with financial incentives and improvements such as bike lanes and landscaping. However, problems like high construction costs and low rents make significant redevelopment projects, like converting office buildings to apartments, financially unfeasible without considerable subsidies from the city.

By the numbers: Foot traffic in St. Louis's central business district took a severe hit during the pandemic and is now seeing the steepest drop in downtown visits among all 66 major North American cities. The decline in retail activity and office visits has led to increased dangers on the streets, more deserted storefronts, and a general sense of abandonment.

➥ THE TAKEAWAY

What it will take: While the current situation in downtown St. Louis may seem bleak, some investors are trying to spark a turnaround. Nearby neighborhoods like Downtown West offer a glimmer of hope with investments in urban development, including loft apartments, a new soccer stadium, and entertainment attractions. These have attracted new residents and visitors, showing that urban revitalization is possible but will take all the resources the city can bring to bear.

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⏪ Weekend Wrap-Up

Catch up on the most clickworthy stories of the week.

  • Shifting sands: In Palm Beach, the exclusive Everglades Club embodies the old-money elite with their century-old traditions, but an influx of new wealth is shaking things up.

  • Beantown blues: The last Boston Market in Delaware suffers from declining customer traffic, and the chain only has 27 locations left nationwide amid corporate drama.

  • Latest insights: In CBRE’s 2024 Investor Intentions Survey, higher-for-longer interest rates, tight credit conditions, and buyer/seller gaps are the biggest obstacles to CRE investment.

  • On the offensive: Blackstone (BX) snaps up the AIR Communities REIT (AIRC) for a cool $10B, marketing the largest multifamily transaction this year.

  • Housing crunch: The Dallas area faces a severe affordable housing shortage, with 33.6K rental homes needed immediately and a projected gap of 83.5K by 2030.

  • Urban oasis: Conor CRE begins work on a $50M, 327-unit apartment project in Old East Dallas, set to open in 2025.

  • Renters rejoice: In 1Q24, RealPage forecasted that 12% of major U.S. apartment markets would see rent increases of 3%+, with most at 2–2.9%.

  • Homeowner hustles: Half of American homeowners and renters struggle to afford their housing, resorting to skipping meals and selling possessions to pay the bills.

  • Big, bold bet: Blue Owl Capital acquires Prima Capital Advisors for $170M, expanding into real estate finance, with Prima managing $10B.

  • Meltdown delay: The slow arrival of distress in multifamily housing loans has left distressed borrowers hesitant to seek a quick bailout.

  • Fraud fears: Fraudulent applications impact operator bottom lines by 10% or more, and existing legal restrictions actually hinder fraud prevention efforts.

  • Balancing act: Shoreham Capital has been very active in multifamily acquisitions over the last 24 months, despite ongoing challenges due to wide buyer-seller price gap.

  • Tower troubles: In struggling St. Louis, the former One AT&T Center sold for just $3.6M, over 98% less than its last sale price.

  • Deal or no deal: Insurance challenges are causing more property deals to be abandoned, according to RCN Capital's Spring 2024 Survey.

  • Banking on growth: River City Bank boasts $5B in assets, doubling in just five years, focused on real estate loans across the West Coast.

👍 Product Reviews

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📈 CHART OF THE DAY

During the pandemic, the supply of affordable homes plummeted to a record low in 2023, with prices soaring and high interest rates pricing many buyers out of the market. Last year, the number of affordable homes decreased by nearly 41%, representing over 243,000 properties.

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