Skinker high-rises unite to share resources, improve visibility
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2009 - Dozens of real-estate agents weathered the summer heat on Tuesday to attend the first open house at the recently formed Skinker High-Rise District. Agents toured available units and common spaces in all five high-rises and enjoyed lunch and dessert from several nearby restaurants.
Mark Tucker, vice president of the district's board, said, "We've had great reaction from people who have been here." Visitors, he said, were "impressed" with the buildings' offerings.
The five buildings --- three condominiums, a co-op and an apartment --- formed the district in April to share resources and to coordinate marketing efforts. With high-rise residences going up in Clayton and the Central West End, the district hopes to revive interest in their buildings and the neighborhood, in part by holding open houses for agents and social events for residents.
Tyler and Trish Small of the Versailles Building, a condominium, aren't selling their elegantly furnished, 750-square-foot place, but they opened it to let agents see how a furnished unit looks and to dispel concerns people might have about some of the smaller units.
"I wanted to open up our home to say, 'Look. Two people perfectly functioning normally with 750 square feet can happen, and you don't need a McMansion to be happy,'" Tyler Small said.
The Smalls said they love their building, its views and its proximity to Forest Park, the St. Louis Art Museum and Kaldi's Coffee. They said they hope the open house and the district will get the word out about all the buildings.
"I think it's good to have people notice the other buildings and see what's available especially when things are for sale here," Trish Small said. "They don't have signs out in the yard, so I think people don't really know what these look like inside."
The open house appeared to accomplish that goal for some agents, including George Metzger, an agent with Dielmann Sotheby's International Realty. "I like to see units like these that I normally wouldn't have anything to do with because of just not having any listings in buildings like this," Metzger said.
The Smalls estimated about a dozen people had visited their place halfway through the event. Temperatures on Tuesday soared into the upper 90s, however. Metzger said attendance likely suffered because of the heat. Still, Tucker said he was happy with the turnout.
Read the Beacon's earlier story below.
As new residential high-rise buildings have gone up in Clayton and the Central West End and taken the spotlight, five existing ones on Skinker Boulevard have banded together to try to reclaim some of their visibility in the community.
"We love living here," sais Marit Withrow, a resident of the 801 Skinker Building. "We want to get the word out."
The five high-rises on Skinker have formed an informal district for sharing resources and attracting new residents after realizing they faced a lot of the same issues. District leaders say the alliance will improve the buildings' operations, visibility and marketing while strengthening the local community and nearby businesses.
The buildings include three condominiums -- the 625 Building, the Versailles and the Wiltshire -- an apartment building, the Dorchester; and a co-op, the 801 Building. (Condos and co-ops are similar but have one big difference: Occupants own their own places in a condo, but they own a share of the whole building in a co-op.) While these five high-rises are all located in the city of St. Louis, they are also a part of Clayton's DeMun area.
Mark Tucker, vice president of the district's board and a resident of the 625 Building, said the new buildings going up in Clayton and the Central West End have drawn attention away from the local neighborhood, making it somewhat of "a forgotten area."
Even with those new buildings, Tucker said the Skinker high-rises and the neighborhood have much to offer, including a variety of restaurants and businesses. The buildings are also right across from Forest Park and very close to Highway 40 and Clayton Road and not far from Lindell and Forest Park Parkway. "It's just an ideally located place," Tucker said.
And Tucker said the age and architecture of the buildings give them a unique appeal; three of the five date back to the 1920s. "These are very gracious, old, classic buildings," he said.
One major goal of the district, which formed in April, is to coordinate marketing efforts and make real-estate agents more inclined to sell available units. The district is hosting an open house Tuesday for hundreds of agents, who can tour units for sale and other spaces in the buildings.
"What we want is for these places to have more visibility among the agents, for the agents to be more interested and for the agents to be really comfortable in showing and selling these properties," Tucker said.
The district will also help buildings share resources with one another. The buildings, Tucker said, face a lot of the same issues with maintenance, staffing, controlling costs and working with the city.
"So I thought it might be good to get together, compare notes, see if somebody has solved something that could help somebody else or offer suggestions or even share ideas," Tucker said. "Maybe share training of employees or share vendor lists, things like that."
An open house on Tuesday is about more than showing units to agents. The district says the surrounding area is an important factor in picking a place to live, and it hopes to entice agents with a sampling of food from nearby restaurants and gift cards to local businesses.
Those establishments and others have tossed in their support for the district. Some, including the Hi-Pointe Theatre, have discussed doing cross-promotions and social events for residents. "They've been very cooperative and very interested in seeing this progress," Tucker said.
District leaders say this relationship between the district and local businesses will strengthen the whole area's sense of community.
"We want to help the businesses in the neighborhood. We want them to be successful," said Withrow, who serves as the district's secretary. "If they're successful, that makes our neighborhood more desirable, makes our property more desirable and makes it more pleasant for us to live here."
The district has the support of its Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, D-28th Ward. Krewson will speak at the open house on the neighborhood's history and what makes it a good place to live.
Krewson in an interview praised the district and compared it to a neighborhood association. The difference here, she said, is "these neighbors are vertical, for the most part."
"They'll share information, they'll get to know their neighbors, they'll collaborate on things just like neighbors do who all live side-by-side up and down the street," Krewson said.
The buildings have needed renovations due to their age, but the district says the upgrades make the buildings more marketable. Tucker said the 625 Building is in the middle of $1 million in renovations. More are on the way as part of the building's five-year renovation plan.
The 801 Building, according to Withrow, has had $8 million in upgrades in the past 10 years, including total remodeling of public spaces and fixes to the windows, plumbing, heating and cooling and elevators.
And the view from the top, she said, is beautiful -- there are no other high-rise buildings in the neighborhood, making the St. Louis and Clayton skylines easily visible. And the top has to be one of the best seats in the area for the annual balloon race in Forest Park.
Puneet Kollipara, an intern at the Beacon, is a student at Washington University.