August 14, 2005

Perspective From the Number Crunchers

The risk that home values in D.C. and its ever expanding ring of suburbs increased slightly over the last several weeks, say the number crunchers at PMI Group, which provides mortgage insurance on many loans. Its latest report, Economic and Real Estate Trends (ERET) from August declares there is a 20.9% chance the local market will fall in the next two years. The May ERET report showed only a 18.7 % chance the market would drop.

Considering the recent runups, a 20% or so chance that the market will drop in the next two years lets me rest easy at night. First, this means that there is an 80% chance that the huge gains the lucky ones have enjoyed will not disappear and may even grow.

Second, D.C. and its 'burbs are a heaven for the faint at heart considering that places like Boston, San Diego, Nassau County, NY, have a greater than 50% chance of losing value in the next two years. This statistic only restates one of the truisms of living in the District, the Commonwealth and Merland: our economy is relatively stable. While the stock makert and high-tech mania produce lots and lots of overnight millionaires, our frumpy, but stable, economic base means we don't soar as high as other regions and don't plunge as deeply when things to sour.

August 5, 2005

Further Signs of Chill in the Outer Suburbs

Robert Toll, chairman and chief executive of Toll Brothers, during a conference call Aug. 3 with analysts, said "we do see cooling in some local markets that were red hot a few months ago." Specically demand for McMansions in Las Vegas, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area have relaxed a bit. Orders for luxury homes that sold in a matter of days or hours now take a couple of weeks, he said.

August 3, 2005

Stadium Turning More Porny SE Into Gold

Two parcels of land -- located about three blocks north of the proposed baseball stadium site in Southeast -- have been purchased by JPI, a Texas-based residential builder. One parcel at 900 First Street SE, now a strip club, is "likely to close," helpfully reports the Washington Post. The other property is on I Street between South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue SE.

JPI also is developing the newly constructed Lafayette Condo in Penn Quarter and Jenkins Row on Capital Hill, as well as various properties in the Commonwealth of Virginai and Merland.

August 1, 2005

A Rose Is A Rose

Whether the sole department store downtown is called Hecht's, Macy's or Bloomindale's could make a big difference in how and when retail reemerges at Metro Center.

You see Federated Department Stores Inc., which owns Hecht's wants to do away with the Balt0-D.C. brand. Considering hoopla surrounding Bloomies and Macy's on Federated's webside and how little attention Hecht's gets (none!) , it is should come as no surprise that Federated wants to do away with the brand. Ending the speculation, Federated
announced in July that the F Street store would in fact become Macy's.

O.K. so what does Bloomies have to do with all of this? They have been shopping around, possibly downtown or Georgetown, for a new site to house a trimmed-down, boutique store. Obviously, if Hecht's became Bloomie's they would not put their boutique concept downtown. But now with Macy's about to take over, the long-dreamed return of a second department store could happen.

A downtown with two department stores would certainly speed up the reignition of the historic shopping district. If that happened the big, big loser would not be Georgetown, but Pentagon City, which depends so heavily on D.C. shoppers.