In the hit series “Seinfeld,” George Costanza had the dream of being an architect.
As a simple real estate agent, the thought of climbing the ladder to architect-status meant a jump in prestige.
During the “The Van Buren Boys episode,” he tried promoting young Steven (who reminded George of himself) for a financial grant simply because he stated his goal of being an architect. A boy after his own heart.
GEORGE: Besides, Steven Koren has the highest of aspirations. He wants to be (pauses for effect) an architect.
WYCK: Is that right?
STEVEN: Actually, maybe I could set my sights a little bit higher.
GEORGE: (Laughs) Steven, nothing is higher than an architect.
STEVEN: I think I’d really like to be a city planner. (Sits down, addressing the entire foundation board) Why limit myself to just one building, when I can design a whole city?
In this funny example, the grandeur of being an architect is only surpassed by that of a city planner.
Today, we call them urban planners. They face the same challenges but on a greater scale and with larger ramifications.
Problem: Urban decay
The plight of urban decay is ever present as monetary systems are established that today value New above Classic. [Some believe a trend against suburbanization is taking place in some American cities, but there is more evidence to the contrary.]
Population invariably moves out as more space is needed for housing. Commercial interests follow the people (money). This leaves behind the housing version of the doughnut hole, a problem which few can solve.
This brings us to Louisville’s Shelby Park, who is facing these very same challenges.
Shelby Park plans for revitalization
I was kindly invited to attend a presentation that the neighborhood leaders were putting on for River City Housing—a non-profit devoted to providing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families.
The purpose of the tour was to share the Shelby Park action plan for revitalizing the neighborhood and give us a quick tour of the neighborhood, highlighting the area’s current strengths, as well as, future potential.
I must begin by saying, people with passion can accomplish a great deal, and these Shelby Park leaders have incredible passion.
The physical neighborhood is anchored by the remarkable, Olmsted-designed city park complete with fountains, play sets, basketball courts, and beautiful, mature trees and green space. It’s an attractive park that increases the value of every nearby property.
Surrounding the park, the housing is mixed in both terms of value and condition. One theme that kept recurring during the presentation was the desire to reduce vacancy and improve run-down units among the 1,400 homes.
Looking through the listings, four homes have sold through the MLS system during 2012. The average days on market for these were 213 days, which is above the 123 day average for the city.
The prices of the sold homes ranged from $42,500 to $137,900.
(During 2011, eight homes sold with an average sale price of $78,275 in an average of 63 days.)
On the plus side, there’s not a single home listed for sale, which is a sign of a desirable neighborhood.
Moving forward in today’s real estate market
From a Realtor’s perspective, the biggest challenge that faces home sellers all over the city, not just in Shelby Park, is condition. The old adage used to be, “Location, location, location.” Today, I believe, “Condition, condition, condition” outpaces it.
People’s lives are more hectic than ever, and buyers want a house that’s “move-in ready” not one that needs work. Older homes, like the ones in Shelby Park, will always need more work than a newer home.
A potential solution could be having a reputable group of contractors fully vetted and ready to help, possibly at reduced rates, for anyone buying in the neighborhood.
With strong leadership and the efforts of groups like Sojourn Community Church, who are investing in the area’s renewal, there’s a lot to like about the future of Shelby Park.