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    Photos By John Nation

    Aging Baby Boomers and their adult children are helping to push along a fast-growing segment of the real estate market — condominiums.

    In 2001, the first year records were kept separating condos from single-family homes, there were 559 new units built in Jefferson County, excluding Jeffersontown, which keeps separate records from the rest of the county. A unit is an individual condominium within a complex of other units, whether the units are freestanding in the same lot or part of a single structure. In 2002, this number grew to 740 new units, and in 2003 the number of new condo units hit 940. In 2004, the figure climbed to 1,131, and by 2005 the new-unit count had jumped to 1,170. In 2006, there were an astonishing 1,731 new units constructed, according to the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator’s (PVA) office.

    There are currently 19,452 condominium units in Jefferson County (some of them converted former apartments), plus another 1,172 in Jeffersontown. There have been 270 new units added in Jefferson County in the first quarter of 2007 — with the shells of other developments still in the building stage — and there are approximately 100 units under construction in Jeffersontown, according to the Jefferson County PVA and Chris Raque, director of permitting and enforcement for Jeffersontown.

    Charles Cash, the city’s director of planning and design services, with Preston Pointe on his right and the Park Place Lofts on his left.

    “We can see a steady progression of increases in the number of condos,” says Chuck Kavanaugh, executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Louisville. “It’s a pretty significant part of the market. On new homes, about 25 percent to 40 percent are condos.” This compares to the mid to late ’90s, when only about 10 percent of new homes were condominiums.

    “It’s the over-50 Baby Boomers and Baby Boomer kids who are buying the condos,” says Kavanaugh. “They don’t want maintenance. They want a more free lifestyle. They want privacy but they don’t want to maintain it. Families with young kids — condos aren’t really where they want to be. It’s the Baby Boomers and echo boomers who are looking for alternative types of housing.”

    Bill Schreck, director of the Department of Codes and Regulations for Metro Louisville, agrees that these demographics are creating the demand, but he adds in senior couples. “These types of housing are more accessible. They’re often one floor and you can get to that one floor without steps in many cases,” he says.

    From far left: developer Isaacs with Lancashire Place condo owners Dr. Philip and Roz Greiver; the posh ground-floor communal lounge at Mercantile Gallery Lofts; Cobalt Ventures’ Fangman in one of the Mercantile lofts.

    Kavanaugh cites the wide price range for existing and new condos, which opens them up to a diverse group of buyers. “Condos sell for anywhere from around $80,000 to $1.5 million in our area,” he says. “People can get a condo for a fairly decent price for the square footage that they’re getting in the neighborhood where they want to be. (From) duplexes to townhomes to patio homes, in this day and time, from a new perspective, there is probably more diversity in place in price and size and type than ever before in Louisville history.”

    There’s no official definition of what constitutes a condominium. Some are also called townhouses, which is generally a two-story attached home with a living area and kitchen on the first floor and bedrooms on the second floor. They also come in three-story models, where there is typically a living area on the first floor, a kitchen area on the second floor and bedrooms on the top floor. Then there are patio homes, which can be duplexes, triplexes or even fourplexes, oftentimes with a small patio yard. They can be one-story or story-and-a-half type construction, but usually with at least one bedroom on the first floor. And as far as condos in buildings that resemble apartments (and oftentimes once were), those are called flats by some in the industry because they’re simple one-floor units in buildings of varying heights. There are also loft condos, which feature open floor plans with usually no dividing walls for rooms.

    Kavanaugh feels that the area on the eastern edge of downtown will feature more condominiums in the next 10 years than downtown itself. “There are several generalized areas where condos are being built. There is downtown, edge downtown — which includes the area from Slugger Field east — and there are also suburban developments in Holiday Manor and Hikes Point and Greenfield. That’s kind of the general term we use to describe the 4,000 acres of parkland along Floyds Fork Park. When you look at all of that from a unit standpoint, it doesn’t look like downtown will have that many units. The edge downtown area will have more.”

    One of the developers in Hikes Point is Pinnacle Properties president John Miranda, whose company is building Manor Point, a cluster of 47 patio homes in that area with a price range from $190,000 to $215,000. “We’ve built about 300 patio homes (in all),” Miranda says. “We’ve been mainly in the East End. We’ve done some in Hikes Point, we’ve done some out in the Glenmary Fern Creek area. We’re about to start building 110 additional patio homes in Fern Creek on the Flint Farm, across the street from Glenmary. We hope that those will be in the $175,000 to $200,000 price range.

    “The National Association of Homebuilders says that the market is growing every single day as the population ages,” Miranda adds. “Every day there are more people coming into the market for this type of home. The type of people buying are active, older adults or younger, single or married with no children. But mainly active older adults that maybe don’t want to be fooling with all the upkeep. Frequently we find people who buy a patio home and then live three to four months of the year in their place in Florida.”

    What condominium living offers Nancy Cummings, 67, who lives with her 11-year-old cat in a two-bedroom condo off Hurstbourne Parkway south of Taylorsville Road, is safety and simplicity. “The house (a four-bedroom tri-level) was just getting to be too much for me, and I didn’t need all that room since my husband had passed away,” she says. “I moved here because of the security and also the maintenance. It’s a big two-bedroom condo and I have a garage and an area where I can store things. I’m here with a lot of people my age. There are also a lot of young people here, which is very nice.”

    Far left: young professional Mike Gabhart on the roof of his 1,500-square-foot condo in the Levy Building. Above: Crescent Center Condominiums residents Max, Grace and Paul Bowman.

    The units in her development sell for $120,000 to $145,000. “I would have liked a patio home but I couldn’t afford those,” she says. “This building has three levels and I live on the second level. It has a security door and people have to be buzzed in. My son says it’s like an apartment, and I say that yes, it is, but I own the inside and maintenance people take care of everything else.”

    Another suburban condo dweller is Becky Ware, 49, who works at the U.S. Post Office. She lives in a two-bedroom patio home in the Highview-Fern Creek area. She prefers condo living, she says, because “I’m single and it’s easy. I don’t have to worry about yard work or anything. Everyone’s so busy; no one has time to take care of houses like they used to. I hear that all the time at work.”

    “Edge” and Downtown

    Mark Isaacs, president of Legacy Homes, specializes in three- to five-story condos in long-established neighborhoods and on the downtown’s “edge,” which is the area just east of downtown. His company is currently building the Legacy Lofts at Campbell and Main streets, which is in an emerging area that already includes several new restaurants, Felice Vineyards winery and the East Market Street galleries. The price range for the loft homes will be $125,000 for a studio up to $525,000 for a condo with a courtyard and terrace.

    “Compared to 10 years ago, we’re seeing an increase in the number of people interested in condominium living. We’re seeing the resurgence of downtown locations and east-of-downtown locations and of close-to-town locations like Clifton Heights or Highland Terrace (a dual-use Baxter Avenue development Legacy built) in the Cherokee Triangle area,” Isaacs says.

    Legacy Homes has also built and is selling units in the developments Cliff View Terrace, Kenilworth Heights (both in Clifton Heights) and Lancashire Place (near Assumption High School). In addition, Legacy is one of the builders at Norton Commons in eastern Jefferson County, which offers condos and townhomes mixed in with single-family homes and retail space.

    Isaacs says that families are much less likely to purchase condominiums. He has one such family at Norton Commons running a retail shop in the first-floor space below their townhouse but says that “it’s certainly less common to see families with children. It’s a unique situation to have the live/work unit.”

    People who have been divorced are another part of the condo market. “With divorced people, the condominium becomes a pretty ideal place,” says Isaacs. “Kids might be staying there only during the week or only on the weekends, so that second or third bedroom becomes really important flex space. It might be the den during the week and the kids’ bedroom on the weekends.”

    He says it’s “absolutely true that Louisville has gotten at this point a class of urban livers and dwellers — people who want to be downtown and like being in edgy neighborhoods, diverse neighborhoods and where they can walk to work and restaurants and bars and other entertainment. That’s part of what’s fueling that resurgence, but what’s also interesting is, that urban buyer in a lot of situations isn’t different from the suburban buyer. It might just be what stage of their life they’re in. We’re beginning to talk to empty-nesters who have lived on six acres in Anchorage or had the big house out in Lake Forest or Polo Fields and they’ve raised their children, and now that they’re empty-nesters, the idea of being downtown sounds just fine.”

    Promising under-construction or finished-but-unoccupied condo developments close to downtown or downtown include RiverPark Place, a mixed-use project located off River Road just east of Tumbleweed Southwest Grill with a planned 600 and eventually 1,500 units; Mercantile Gallery Lofts at 301 E. Market St., with 47 completed loft units and two luxury penthouses; and the five-story (with an expected 82 units) Fleur de Lis project at Preston and Main, just west of the 22-unit Park Place Lofts, completed in 2005. Olivia Fangman, sales director for Cobalt Ventures, which is developing the Mercantile project, says those condos were planned back in 2000 but Cobalt held off on construction “until the market really began to demand it. That’s when we started working heavily to get the Mercantile off the ground.” That development is slated to have a 5,000-square-foot first-floor area with a communal movie theater, billiard tables, fireplace and library for owners.

    Charles Cash, director of planning and design services for Louisville Metro, said that downtown is a strong segment of the condo market. “You have a large segment of the Baby Boom population who are ready to move in and move down. You also have young professionals who grew up in the suburbs and who are ready to try something else; they’re not particularly interested in the same thing their parents had,” Cash says. “They’re looking for a more neighborhood-integrated kind of lifestyle where it’s possible to even walk to work or bike to work.”

    “This is true of cities across the country where there is sort of a return to urban living as a desirable. When you put that into the context of news broadcasts going on about the cost of fuel and global warming, living closer to where you work and have your center of interest makes an awful lot of sense,” Cash says.

    Downtown’s condo residents include Grace Bowman, 45, who lives with her husband Paul, 51, and her stepson Max, 18, in a three-story, 1,400-square-foot townhome in the Crescent Center Condominiums, located just north of Broadway in the 600 block of South Second Street. The family moved into the condo four years ago. Before that they owned a home in Jeffersonville. But after her husband developed vision problems and could no longer drive, they needed to move closer to an urban area with good bus connections so that he could remain independent. “We like to live downtown and we call it TARC Central with all the bus lines,” she says.

    “We bicycle and we go to the restaurants. We take advantage of things at U of L, the Louisville orchestra and other things available. Another thing we love about downtown are all of the little public parks that are open. Like the plaza south of the Cathedral of the Assumption on Muhammad Ali. It’s just a lovely place. There’s a big fountain. Some days we’ll pack a picnic lunch and walk to the plaza,” Bowman said.

    Across the street from Waterfront Park’s Great Lawn is Waterfront Park Place, a luxury high-rise development that opened in 2004. Marjorie Kaiser, 70, says she was the second owner to move in. That was November 2004 and she hasn’t looked back. As a retired University of Louisville education and English professor, the idea of living in an active urban area appealed to Kaiser, who lives alone. She sold her home of 20 years in the Highlands and moved into a 1,400-square-foot one-bedroom condo that has spacious rooms and a study for her computer, she says. She declined to say how much she paid for her condominium but did admit to getting a great deal on the price since she purchased early. Units currently for sale at Waterfront Park Place range from $397,500 for a one-bedroom with 1,276 square feet to more than $2 million for a 5,118-square-foot unit on the 18th floor.

    “I love being close to the Kentucky Center and the art galleries. That kind of thing appealed to me. And the aura of being downtown appealed to me. I hadn’t lived downtown before but I had visited friends in New York who lived in Manhattan and I kind of romanticized that. This isn’t Manhattan, but who could afford that? This is close to that and getting better all the time,” Kaiser says.

    One of the younger downtown residents is Mike Gabhart, 31, who lives in the Levy Building at 133 S. Third St., which houses the Old Spaghetti Factory at ground level. The 24 condo units, some of them converted apartments, are on the second through fifth floors. Gabhart is single and lives with a cousin in a 1,500-square-foot unit with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. He moved there in September 2005 after putting down a deposit nearly a year earlier.

    “I grew up in the Shively area of Louisville, but when I graduated from college I lived in the Cincinnati area for seven years and moved back to the Louisville for a professional opportunity, and I wanted to be part of all the excitement. At that time, there still weren’t many opportunities to buy downtown, even though that was just two years ago. The Levy was one of the few early ones,” Gabhart says. Downtown appeals to him because, he says, “I’m a huge baseball fan. I like the excitement of Fourth Street Live. I like living by restaurants and bars. I felt like it was going to be a good investment. The reason we liked the Levy Building specifically is, it’s literally in the middle of everything.”

    Darren McKinnon, 29, lives and works downtown. He is an architect who lives at The Harbison, 711 W. Main St. There are 20 units in his building — five stories of residential condos above two floors of retail and office spaces. He purchased his two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot condo five years ago after he finished college.

    “Where I live right now, the appeal is the energy on the street, the activity,” he says. “You feel like you’re a part of this new movement back downtown and maybe a forerunner to what the mayor and the city would like to see happen downtown. It kind of boils down to the energy that I feel when I’m walking around on the streets. McKinnon is getting married this month to Karrie Ralston, also 29, and they’ve already decided they’ll make his downtown condo
    their home.

    The heat is on

    Here’s a list of 25 “hot” condominium developments or conversions (with total number of units and location), determined after seeking the opinions of RE/MAX realtor Dana Martin and a group of realtors at Kentucky Select Properties:

    Waterfront Park Place (79)  Witherspoon Street  |  Harbortown (21)  River Road  |  Harrods Creek Overlook (17)  US 42  |  1400 Willow (138)  Willow Avenue  |  Park Grande (6)  Cherokee Road  |  Norton Commons (30)  Prospect  |  Ashwood Bluff (53)  Rudy Lane  |  Coppershire (66)  Shelbyville Road  |  Villas of Chadwick at Notting Hill (20)  Shelbyville Road  |  Indian Hills Village (53)  Tecumseh Circle  |  Terraces at Indian Hills (30)  Indian Woods Drive  |  Clifton Lofts (42)  Frankfort Avenue  |  Lancashire Place (22)  Lancashire Avenue  |  Lodge 820 (7)  Frankfort Avenue  |  Valhalla Vistas (12)  Shelbyville Road  |  The Belknap (22)  Wrocklage Avenue  |  Hamilton Springs (9)  Old Henry Road  |  Stonecrest (53)  Zorn Avenue  |  Clark Place (35)  Payne Street  |  Valencia at Landis Lakes (65)  English Station Road  |  Signature Point (302)  English Station Road  |  The Commodore (59)  Bonnycastle Avenue  |  Willow Terrace-Dartmouth (83)  Willow Avenue  |  Coachgate (106)  Hubbards Lane  |  Preston Pointe (3)  East Main Street  |

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