America’s fastest changing cities
2009/02/18, 11:01 am
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Real Estate
America’s Fastest-Changing Cities
Matt Woolsey, 02.17.09, 4:00 PM ET

What a difference six months make.

Take Manhattan. In July, Wall Street-area apartment seekers were by and large out of luck. Average rental prices had hit an all-time high, and inventory was tight. And the well-suited bankers pouring out of Sloane Street bars belied a recession.

Within a few months, though, Lehman Brothers folded, the S&P 500 lost half its peak value and layoffs mounted.

Now, asking prices for rentals are down 10% from July, according to the Real Estate Group New York, a research firm, and people are packing up: 373,364 residents have left New York City in the last year, according to the Internal Revenue Service, a net loss of 80,000. Unemployment is at 7.8%, above the national average of 7.2%, thanks to a 10% December drop in financial services jobs. The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates New York will lose 181,000 jobs in 2009.
In Depth: America’s 10 Fastest-Changing Cities

This type of change is being felt across the country. Plummeting housing prices, a growing cost of living and high unemployment have people leaving Los Angeles in droves. How fast are they ditching the basin? If you add up all the households abandoning Detroit, Miami and New York, three of the country’s fastest-changing cities, it’s still less than the net outflow of Los Angeles. That ranks the City of Angels first.

Behind the Numbers
Based on housing price, inflation, employment and migration trend data from ZoomProspector, a San Francisco-based business relocation consultancy, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service, National Association of Realtors and Census Department, Forbes evaluated the 40 largest U.S. cities to determine where the economic landscape has changed most over the last year. These cities are not Census-defined metropolitan statistical areas, but core urban areas.

We “are in financial distress, but the economic pain is not evenly distributed by geography,” says Anatalio Ubalde, chief executive of ZoomProspector. “It doesn’t always come down to something as simple as the coast versus the Midwest. The numbers don’t always bear that out as much as people want simple economic explanations that are geographic.”

What is simple: Shifts in housing prices, inflation and employment are altering America’s cities. In Detroit, 20% unemployment means a vacant inner city where one can buy homes for $1. In Miami, where home prices fell 16.9% and inflation rose 4.2% in 2008, change plays out in empty storefronts and unfinished buildings dotting the skyline. Formerly a sign of urban renewal and job creation, those construction projects now embody a staggering hangover from the heady housing boom.

These issues wreak havoc on local governments. Just as falling home values, and, as a result, lower property tax assessments, hit local and state municipalities in the wallet, unemployment and turmoil in the private sector hammer the public tax base. In New York, for example, troubles on Wall Street are expected to suck $3.5 billion from state budgets, according to the comptroller’s office.

In tough times like these, cities are particularly focused on attracting new industries that can bring in cash and jobs to the region. One major target? Overseas companies looking to relocate.

“A lot of companies went overseas and are now moving back to the U.S. to consolidate,” says Pat O’Brien, executive director of the Milwaukee 7, an economic development group. He points to the recent move of C&D Technologies, a Blue Bell, Pa.-based energy storage company employing 300 workers, from China back to Milwaukee, where it owns a plant.

“We focus on driver industries,” he says. “Those industries that sell goods and services outside of the region, thereby creating new capital investment into the region.”

It’s a great idea and a perfect way to save a sliding economy that’s changing for the worse. The only problem is execution. After all, in this economy, where every city is shedding jobs, there are more areas looking for growing companies than there are companies looking for new cities.


Berkely industrial park plan advances
2009/02/10, 1:06 pm
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Berkeley industrial park plan advances

By Andy Paras
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley County Council on Monday finalized the Jedburg Road Assessment District, paving the way for a massive industrial park that is expected to attract 18,000 indirect and direct jobs to the county.

“This is, in essence, Berkeley County’s economic stimulus package,” said Attorney Neil Robinson, who is representing Hillwood Development, one of six companies that have agreed to fund two-thirds of the $30.5 million plan.

Together, the six companies plan to develop 18.8 million square feet of industrial and commercial space on about 2,672 acres on both sides of Interstate 26 near the Exit 94 interchange.

Much of the space will be used for port-driven distribution space, while some will be manufacturing, officials say.

The purpose of the assessment district was to come up with a way to fund improvements to the roads and an overpass needed to accommodate the increased traffic created by the industries.

Under the agreement, Berkeley County will borrow a total of $30.5 million from the State Infrastructure Bank.

The county will contribute a total of $10 million by using its capital improvements fund to repay the loan over the next 20 years.

The six businesses will pay the remaining $20.5 million un- der the terms of the assessment district.

The first jobs will come with the construction to improve the area roads and increase over time, officials said. Construction is expected to begin by this summer.

County Attorney Nicole Ewing said without the plan, many of the companies would have had to pack up and go home.

She said the assessment district is the first of its kind in the state. There have been others involving one business but never involving six competing industries.

“This is really a very significant event for Berkeley County and the state,” Ewing said.

The companies include Ross Perot Jr.-run Hillwood, Rock-Berkeley, MeadWestvaco, Eastway and the Trammel Crowe Co., and local developers International Mercantile Park and Gordon Darby.

Foster Gaillard of Rock-Berkeley and the Rockefeller Group, said the deal was complicated because of the companies’ competing interests and the necessary road improvements.

He credited the county staff, Supervisor Dan Davis and County Council with making the deal happen.

“None of this would have happened without the county taking the lead on this,” Gaillard said.

Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589 or

Deal for school to benefit city
2009/02/10, 1:04 pm
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Deal for school to benefit city

By David Slade
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In an unusual arrangement aimed at putting a new school on Charleston’s upper peninsula, the city is poised to buy land on Meeting Street for $4.75 million and then lease it at essentially no charge to Meeting Street Academy.

Brad Nettles
The Post and Courier

The city of Charleston is considering buying this piece of property bounded by Conroy, Meeting, Cool Blow and Nassau streets from South Carolina Electric & Gas for $4.75 million and to then sublease it to Meeting Street Academy.

Under the deal, according to city officials, Meeting Street Academy would build a roughly $9 million school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students on the 2.4-acre site.

The plan calls for a gymnasium and a park that would be available to area residents.

City Council will consider the deal at a meeting tonight, following a unanimous recommendation by council’s Real Estate Committee on Monday.

Meeting Street Academy is a nonprofit institution that opened last summer and currently serves about 40 preschoolers in a former church at 1156 King St.

Though private, the school charges a nominal dollar-a-day tuition and is funded by a foundation created by Charleston-based Sherman Financial Group, city officials said.

“It’s absolutely remarkable,” Mayor Joe Riley said. “This is another center of excellence in education.”

Although the school exists only as a start-up preschool today, Riley and other city officials were effusive in their praise for the institution, which requires parents to sign contracts agreeing to help their children with homework and spend time volunteering in the school, among other things.

More info
Meeting Street Academy’s web site

The school’s Web site states that it’s mission is “to establish and maintain a rich and dynamic learning environment for children from families who care deeply about their children’s education but cannot afford traditional private schools.”

The land the city plans to buy is a large vacant lot on the east side of Meeting Street between Cool Blow and Conroy streets, currently owned by South Carolina Electric & Gas.

The location is in the heart of a fast-changing section of Charleston. Across Meeting Street is a former mattress factory where the South Carolina Research Authority and the city plan to invest up to $5 million to create research and laboratory space for biomedical start-up companies.

On the south side of the property, there’s a new condominium development on Cool Blow Street. On the north side, there’s public housing.

The Post and Courier

The proposed deal with SCE&G calls for the city to agree to buy the land for $4.75 million, but the city would not have to pay for nearly five years. Riley said the ultimate cash cost could be much lower because the city hopes to arrange land deals with the utility and to find sites in Charleston for needed sub-stations.

If the sale agreement is signed, the city would lease the land to Meeting Street Academy for 50 years, with options to renew. For this, the school would be charged a total of $10.

Riley said he thinks the school will be a national model, but he also said there’s value to the city and its residents in the gym and park area the school would build, which would be available for city recreation programs and community use. He said it would have cost the city about $4 million to create such facilities.

“I know that the school is a great idea,” said Councilman Jimmy Gallant, who represents that section of Charleston. “I’m totally for it.”

Council members Gary White and Yvonne Evans also voted to recommend the deal.

School officials did not attend the meeting and could not be reached at the school after hours Monday evening.

Sherman Financial Group, the school’s backer, is a company that buys distressed debt.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or