I’ve come to the somewhat unscientific conclusion that investing in real estate has some correlative position with professional sports teams, stadiums and apartment pricing. It used to be that only major cities had ball parks. Now they’ve gotten named after powerful industry-leading firms (Chase Field, Miller Park), along with a whole host of minor league places. Recently I was in St. Louis and had the opportunity to walk around the downtown area. I am part of Cardinal Nation, having been a fan of St. Louis Cardinals baseball since I lived in Creve Coeur, Mo. I hadn’t been back to the city in a long time and wanted to do two things, research how the commercial real estate industry was doing and go to see a Cards game. I was, not surprisingly, dismayed to see how St. Louis had become a market of contrasts. Let me suggest something to you. When a market is growing, a lot of moving parts have to work together. That includes the ability of the metro to have valued job growth, new roads, urban renewal and other facets of citizen commitment to future prosperity. When you find a place like St. Louis that has some amazing natural resources and great institutions but little fundamental growth and development, it really demonstrates what a lack of civic leadership has done to damage the future. I saw lots of apartments, and many of the more interesting towers downtown that faced the river were almost fully occupied. Rents well in excess of $1,500 were common, but the downtown area did lack cranes, those symbols of future hope and belief in a better city. So for me, despite my disappointment at having grown up in a place with limited future prospects, the St. Louis Cardinals shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-0. And on a bright sunny day in Busch Stadium, the hot dogs were just fine.
Jack Kern is the research editor of Multi-Housing News and Commercial Property Executive. He has visited most of the major league ballparks, some minor league parks and an occasional trailer park watching baseball and musing on life in general. As part of his summer series, “I got lost but found a ball park,” he’ll be sharing his viewpoint on the finer points of the game along with something about real estate.