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VOL. 125 | NO. 198 | Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pinnacle Move Could Spark Downtown Housing Market

By Sarah Baker

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The recent buzz from Pinnacle Airlines Corp.’s decision to move its airport-area headquarters to One Commerce Square is generating mostly positive feedback, but real estate agents say its too early to tell how the shift of 600-plus new employees to the area will affect the Downtown housing market.

Without a doubt the move is expected to boost an already growing submarket.

The Central Business Improvement District (CBID) – a zone identified by the Center City Commission – currently has 65,000 employees, with employment expected to increase by 7 percent over the next five years.

Coupled with the past trends for Downtown – especially with a large singles population, a growing number of students from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and Memphis College of Art’s graduate school, and more employees at the expanded Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital – it is estimated that there will be a continued demand for Downtown living options in the upcoming years.

Since 2000, there have been 97 residential development projects in the CBID totaling $600 million in investment, according to the CCC’s Downtown Memphis Housing Report 2000-2010 and from the 2007 Memphis Downtown Market Study commissioned by the CCC and conducted by Economics Research Associates.

Leslie Gower, the CCC’s vice president of marketing and communications, said one of the projects she will be working on over the course of the year is creating a “welcome packet” to orient Pinnacle employees to Downtown.

The packet’s materials will include not only residential perks, but also benefits from businesses throughout Downtown that have expressed a willingness to offer discounts and special hospitality gifts to Pinnacle employees.

All of the Downtown apartments that want to participate are encouraged to do so.

Henry Turley Co. has some specific ideas in mind, such as not charging a fee for credit checks or waiving the deposit on new housing, and discounting 10 percent off of the first month’s rent, among others.

The company’s namesake, Henry Turley, spearheaded Downtown developments like Harbor Town, South Bluffs, The Lofts, Barboro Flats, The Gilmore and the upcoming Van Vleet Flats and Offices at Second and Gayoso.

Metro 67 has also expressed interest in participating in the welcoming.

While the CCC will not supplement any of the incentives, it will work with separate residential properties to help produce and coordinate them into one comprehensive package.

Gower said the desire to “live, work, play” in one place will sustain the demand for Downtown living options.

“I think they’re going to see Downtown as a livable community and are going to be surprised on the range of housing options that are out there,” she said.

Gower said she would also like to organize a home tour in the upcoming months with Downtown’s residential properties in efforts to show Pinnacle employees the available options.

Many real estate agents are joining the marketing efforts to appeal to Pinnacle employees.

Tim and Karen Soro, the self-proclaimed “Downtown Realtors” with Henry Turley Co., said they, too, plan to put a package together.

They will also make arrangements to be “out and about,” making appearances at meetings and gatherings within the Downtown community.

“The kind of people who are going to be coming Downtown will be Downtowners,” Karen Soro said. “They won’t be the kind of suburban people that will be just coming in to work, these people are going to be living there.”

Joe Spake, broker with Revid Realty, said he may change his blogging to be more Downtown-oriented, highlighting the area’s conveniences and amenities.

CCC president Paul Morris said he knows that some of Pinnacle’s employees will move Downtown, but he’s not exactly sure how many.

The apartment market in particular should see heightened demand to start, Morris said.

“People that work at Pinnacle who are mobile – the ones who aren’t married, don’t have kids and/or are renting somewhere else will be the ones that most quickly can make that decision to move Downtown,” Morris said.

“But longer term, I think you’ll see some condos and houses.”

One thing is certain, Morris said: The move will prompt others to make the same decision.

“Companies that work with Pinnacle and also others that are thinking about moving their office or moving to Memphis are hearing the story and thinking there must be something good going on Downtown,” he said, “because Pinnacle wouldn’t have made this decision if it wasn’t a great place to be.”

PROPERTY SALES 81 277 20,909
MORTGAGES 85 329 24,074
BUILDING PERMITS 219 672 43,265
BANKRUPTCIES 64 238 13,418