Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Condo Mambo, Part One

I love condos, even the ones without a view of the ocean. They have a perspective you just can’t get elsewhere. I’ve stayed in a bunch over the last 15 years, and not one was bad, even a second floor bomber. But since I moved here I see things differently, maybe more confused than ever. I can’t see why condos are inherently bad, other than most are butt-ugly on the outside; I also can’t figure out if they do a darn for the local economy. Heck, all these new ones might turn out to be bad for the local economy, for all I know.

When locals hear that hallowed names like Tequila Frogs, Louie’s, Jim’s Pier, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Parrot Eyes (we call it “paradise”) will be condo-ized, one must pause for reflection. You can see why a lot of true locals – at least those not connected with the commercial land flippin’ industry – really hate high-rise condos. Rumors are that five major high-rises over 6 stories are in the works, and another five are being drawn up: there goes the neighborhood.

But change happens and these condo folks are just making a living, sometimes at great risk. There’s a story that Bridgepoint, the most famous condo on the Island, was almost a disaster because the fellow built just in time for the Texas Recession and Stock Market Crash of 1985. At first he lost his proverbial ass. If I may add, many of the pre-sold customers backed out, the peso cratered, and it was not a memorable time because I lost $30,000 in inherited stock in ten minutes – like 90 percent of all of it. But look at Bridgepoint today – getting a facelift and units selling in the high six and low seven figures. Not bad if you stayed in the game.

The question about whether condos do any good for the Island still bothers me, though. There may be more dwelling units but the population and sales taxes have been almost flat for at least ten years. What’s going on here? How can the Island be a top 10 US beach destination and still have flat activity?

I will attempt to explore the issue in future blogs. If this was a really hot market like parts of Florida (Naples) and North Carolina (Myrtle Beach), retail and food establishments should be booming because of all the condos and fancy townhomes.

Something just ain’t right.


beerman said...

We had just this discussion about SPI growth while visiting the Florida Panhandle. I see the big difference is jobs. Somewhere I read Cameron County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We would be there now if I could find a 40K job with benefits. Not willing to drive to Brownsville as I have only a 25 minute commute now when I pedal. Until there is a way to make a living and pay for a 200 grand and up home on the island I don't see it being nothing but 401K folks :)

As for condos, I could never be happy living in an "apartment" I'll have to have a garage and work bench forever, will not need much of a yard though!

Ex-Manissean said...

I was told once that many rich and upper-middle class northern Mexicans own many of the condo's and time shares on Padre. Spend their holidays and such there. Is that still true?

Sam said...

Yeppers, that they do. Monterrey is the industrial capital of Mexico and that's where a bunch of the pesos come from. They don't do timeshares that I know of ... they BUY a house or condo, as in cash or a wire transfer. So, if the pseo craters because of the next Presidential Election in Mexico ...

I'll leave that one up in the air. But Beerman, I know what you mean. I don't think you saw the mess that I call a garage, but anyway when I get around to it that's where the beer and boats get made.

Gotta have a boat, just in case it happens!

Iby said...

What? What? What? "They" are talking about turning Louies and/or Parrot Eyes into condos? What?

Sam said...

Parrot Eye's is pretty much a done deal - their lease expires in September and they're moving out. Shame, nice spot, to be condo-ized.

No word about what's up with Louie's, other than the rumors are it's on the market. /sam

Anonymous said...

Hello Sam - hesitated posting here because I am one of the crowd set to invade your SPI paradise in just a few weeks, filling up your stores, streets, restaurants, beaches...and yes, condos. Know we're a bit of a mixed blessing but not sure how I feel about your post on more and more developments coming to SPI. This will be my first time to vacation on the island but I did (mis)spend some of my youth living and working on Long Beach Island of the cost of NJ. Wonderful place with lots of unique places but even in the short time I spent there every square inch was being gobbled up for new million dollar beach homes, minimarts and the rest. Finally gave up working summers there when it became impossible for 3 college students to rent an efficiency to crash in while we worked 3 jobs each. Was a blast though.
Did notice that you spent time in Oak Ridge. I grew up in Knoxville (Dad worked for the TVA) and spent a lot of time in OR. Ever make it to Big Ed's pizza?
Anyway, I'll apologize in advance for our intrusion to SPI later this month. We'll promise to leave things better than when we found them.

Sam said...

Not at all, my friend, and please enjoy the Island. I came here for at least 12-15 years before making the move. As I said, I love condos! The question is "How do feel about 10 more big ones on the Island?"

These puppies would be between a quarter million to over one million for what is a small apartment. I can't imagine renting them for less than $300 a night if they even allow renting ... that's not exactly your average tourist material, right?

Hey and if you're on the Island, look us up. /Sam

Anonymous said...

The real potential problem is the less expensive being built by Clayton, Vern Givens and others. By "less expensive", I mean $300Kish. Those could create a real glut on the market and cause
a major economic problem on the island as has happened before.

The residents CAN control this. If we do not want OUR island all condos, we need to get out in force and tell the alderman that.
Let's do what Surfriders is doing for Isla Blanca. Start petitions, bumper stickers, etc. Let's tell the Comprehensive Planning folks that. These are decisions for the residents to decide. This is our home, it is just as important as Isla Blanca. Huge condo projects will impact the dunes, the wetlands and the overall environment. None of us want to lose the funky places along the bay, but I promise you we will along with many of the lower priced homes there if we start to allow beach to bay high rise condos. Let's get active and resist turning OUR home into New York City. Clayton and a lot of the other builders and realtors don't live here. They don't care.

Philippines properties for sale said...

Thanks for the great post. Can't wait to read the part two.

Angelo H