10. Local homebuilder Grant & Co. is launching a program it hopes will entice Downtown employees to live closer to their workplaces.
The “Work Downtown, Live Downtown” promotion kicks off this week for the company’s RiverTown on the Island condominiums, providing a variety of incentives to any Downtown worker who buys a home there.
The first phase of RiverTown – on Mud Island just south of HarborTown – was recently completed. Its four buildings contain 39 units, which range from 1,200 to 3,200 square feet and in price from $199,000 to $650,000.
The company spent the past several months doing the standard billboard, radio and print marketing campaign for the development’s condos, selling 12 homes in the process. Now it hopes to jumpstart condo sales activity with this latest promotion.
Grant & Co. president Keith Grant said the company will target Downtown’s largest employers – such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Morgan Keegan & Co., Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, AutoZone and First Tennessee.
Grant figures the Downtown work force must include a huge untapped market of people interested in living closer to their offices.
“There’s 70,000 people that work Downtown and there’s only (27,000) that live Downtown,” he said. “This is an incentive designed specifically for Downtown businesses.”
Touting the perks
The promotion will revolve around “white glove” tours starting Sept. 6 and held each weekend next month to showcase the homes and tout the benefits of living Downtown for those who already work there.
First of all, Grant said the company hopes to single out the convenience factor.
“Rather than fight the traffic, why not live in an area like the Island, where you can relax in the afternoons looking off your balcony at the Mississippi River and not have to worry about driving 30 minutes home,” he said. “You can drive five minutes home, or walk home or take the trolley home.”
Next comes the amenities on and near Mud Island, which have been enhanced in the past few years with numerous shops and services within the HarborTown development and in neighboring Uptown.
“When HarborTown first started, it started kind of slow just because they didn’t have those kinds of amenities – you didn’t have a grocery store to go to, there wasn’t a gas station, there weren’t any schools at the time, no restaurants to speak of,” Grant said. “So, it’s definitely made it a lot nicer to live on the island now that you have all that on that end of Downtown.”
Grant & Co. will offer buyers one of three incentive packages valued at $3,000 each: an appliance package that includes a refrigerator and washer/dryer; an entertainment package that includes a plasma screen TV; and a decorator package that includes a choice of multiple wall colors and blinds.
‘Building the market’
Getting people to move Downtown has proven more difficult this year. Residential sales in Downtown’s 38103 ZIP code declined 32.7 percent in the first seven months of 2008 compared to the same period last year.
Just 224 homes sold from January through July this year, down from 333 in 2007, according to the latest data from Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.
Downtown’s condo market, though still the most robust in Shelby County, decreased 33.9 percent through the end July; the year has seen 125 condo sales Downtown compared with 189 in the same period of 2007.
Condo sales Downtown did increase in July from the previous month and the same month a year ago, a positive note in the eyes of Jeff Sanford, president of the Center City Commission.
“No question, the housing market has slowed, but I would suggest that Downtown has fared better than other parts of the community,” Sanford said. “One, apartment occupancy rates have held over 90 percent. Secondly, the number of condos being sold Downtown – while short of what they were in comparable periods two and three years ago – nonetheless are showing strength. These are not the best of times, but Downtown is more than holding its own.”
How much it continues to hold its own remains to be seen. While Grant & Co. harbors long-term plans for RiverTown of bringing 200 homes to the site, that is on hold until sales of existing units pick up.
Grant said he hopes the latest promotion brings the needed spark.
“One of the reasons we developed it the way we did with multiple buildings was so we could continue at a pace that fits the market,” Grant said. “Some people have to put up a building with 50 or more units in it, then what happens is you encounter a slower market like we’re in now and you slash prices to move property. In our situation, we’re building to the market. We’ll start new buildings as we sell the homes that we have now.”...