South Loop real estate reputation
10/27/2010 10:00 PM
I hate it whenever anyone insults the South Loop. We've been lucky, sailing on good PR that was earned and deserved for years. We’ve maintained a good reputation because we have lots of new housing, restaurants and shopping--and we are close to everything where everyone wants to be.
The realtors and residents have made a mantra that repudiates the old reputation: seedy, vice-ridden, run-down and full of bums.
But when a foreclosure study that just came out said Chicago’s hot neighborhoods are being hit hard, the Chicago Tribune--that bastion of frat house foibles, potential sexual harassment/hostile work environment lawsuits, complete financial ruin and readers bailing out a mile a minute--had the nerve to insult the South Loop.
The Sun Times just reported the facts of the study: foreclosures up by this much in these neighborhoods. But the Tribune--after identifying a few South Loop buildings that have had a handful of foreclosures--threw in a number of zingers.
The Tribune identified the problem--buyers who bought units with small down payments who ended up owing more than their units were worth; a problem, by the way, that everyone from neighborhood real estate agents to the president of the United States is trying to solve. And then the potshots started.
The Trib quoted a guy who equates a few condo buyers whose eyes (and mortgages) were bigger than their stomachs and who got in a little over their heads with complete neighborhood deterioration.
“The reason (the South Loop) is getting crushed is it’s only the South Loop in a good market,” realtor Mario Greco said. “In a bad market, it’s no man’s land. In a good market, people assume neighborhoods will be expanding. When the market crashes, it’s like the Sycamore or Moline of Chicago.”
Hey, that’s my neighborhood you’re talking about! A few goofy mortgages equals the comeback of Al Capone, Hinky Dink, Bathhouse John, the Everleigh Sisters and the Roosevelt Hotel before the renovation?
But it gets worse:
Realtor Kelly Cirignani is working with a first-time homebuyer who until recently was looking specifically at newer construction in the South Loop. The client settled on a unit and was ready to make a 50 percent down payment, until his lender said it would not approve a mortgage in the chosen building. Cirignani is now scouting properties in Old Town and Lincoln Park. “He doesn’t want anything to do with the South Loop,” she said. “I warned him before it happened. I guess we didn’t realize how bad it was.”
I guess those of us who live here, who have seen our property values (and real estate taxes) increase generously didn’t realize how bad it was either. It’s hard to tell you’re living in Bosnia after the blasts when you’re busy dining out at Opera, Gioco, Zapatista, Bongo Room and Yolk every day. Not to mention Tapas Valencia, Opart Thai, Ma & I, Hackney’s, Bar Louie, Blackie’s, SRO and Caterina.
There have been booms and busts in the South Loop through the years (as there have been all over Chicago). And we have weathered them with great townhomes, single families, and yes, tons of condos. People stay or rent them, eventually sell them if they must, and yes, some people do get foreclosed on. It’s a fact of life: like Starbucks serving Thanksgiving blend at Thanksgiving.
But calling our wonderful, diverse, easy transportation neighborhood a no-man’s land that buyers are running from in droves is unfair and totally untrue. And I resent the Tribune reporter for gleaning these quotes and using them without a voice from the other side.
Now we know that in addition to the cyber cat-calls, the bankruptcy, the layoffs and the lost readers, the Trib has also forgotten how to publish a balanced story. So I will do it for them.
“In my opinion, what these agents are saying is happening throughout the city, not just in the South Loop,” says local realtor Carol Dorsey, who has been in the real estate business in the South Loop for many years.
“There are certain buildings in every neighborhood that are experiencing these problems. It’s the state of real estate, but fortunately it is limited to specific buildings, not neighborhoods.
“The South Loop is a great place to purchase and live. It is one of the few neighborhoods where you can walk to every ‘el’ and go anywhere in the world: Blue line to O’Hare, Orange line to Midway. You can walk to a number of Metra Stations, universities, the financial district, museums, great medical care, Grant Park, the lakefront, grocery shopping, restaurants, Soldier Field, Symphony Center, Millennium Park, to name just a few. It is easy to get on and off every interstate and Lake Shore Drive.
“The elementary education in the neighborhood is constantly improving and I have met people who are specifically looking to move into or stay in the neighborhood because of the South Loop Elementary School and Old St Mary’s School. We have many day care businesses throughout the area--and easy access to multiple exercise facilities and wonderful pet care.
“The rich diversity around us creates a rich environment. I have met people who moved out of the neighborhood, missed it and come back. I have known of many situations where people move up to larger units or down to smaller units within a few blocks of where they started in the South Loop.
“Now that says something about a neighborhood.”
Something that for some reason the Chicago Tribune ignored.