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Patching disconnects between downtown properties, investors

There are a certain number of commercial buildings in downtowns in Mississippi that are available for sale or redevelopment. There are a certain number of investors who would purchase those buildings and bring them back to life. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between those buildings and those investors. I have decided to try and do something about that.

For the past several years I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many people in downtown redevelopment efforts, whether in Main Street organizations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies or other community revitalization groups. Most of those individuals have lamented about the problem of vacant buildings or buildings that were available for sale, but have no buyers. Some of these buildings were diamonds in the rough and some were hopeless cases. Some were even renovated and ready for sale.

Once, a banker in a small town showed me a building that had been foreclosed on, then renovated, marketed at a six-figure price and then eventually sold at a substantial loss for $38,000.

In the market?

My suspicion is that there are quite a few people out there who are in the market for downtown property for such purposes. The Baby Boomers are in their prime earning years or in the first wave of retirement. Many of them may be ready to look at small towns as viable places to either retire or start their own businesses. Indeed, the U.S. National Brain Drain Survey by Strategic Development Group (SDG) of Bloomington, Ind., found that respondents over 45 years old with college educations are looking favorably at their hometowns as relocation options. It revealed that as many as 35% of individuals in this age group would like to start a business in their hometowns.

Several Main Street communities list downtown buildings for sale, but they are few and far between. Besides, even if every Main Street organization in Mississippi listed downtown properties for sale there would be quite a few places left out. There are approximately 50 Main Street communities, but there are 297 municipalities in the state.

Nevertheless, a few potential jewels can be found. Philadelphia Main Street has an old two-story furniture store with over 9,000 square feet on each floor for under $90,000.

The LoopNet commercial real estate online system is a good place to search for commercial properties in general. It seems to have a lot of strip shopping centers and stand-alone buildings, but there are a few downtown properties there.

For example, it shows three small buildings two blocks from the Mississippi River in Natchez listed for $150,000. There is also a 71,000-square-foot office building in Greenville for less than $500,000. I found an established retail building in Fulton that had just over 2,000 square feet and was listed for $27,500.

As you can see, I’m not really talking about the class A spaces in the hot real estate markets. Those properties are well-exposed and there is a market for them. What I’m talking about are buildings in those downtowns that have probably seen better days or on the verge of making a comeback. The market for such properties is probably fairly small and scattered. But such a market does exist. The research mentioned above confirms it.

Getting together

So how to get these people and places together?
One solution is a Web site where communities, real estate brokers and building owners in Mississippi could list available buildings in their downtowns and connect with those who want to purchase downtown buildings in Mississippi. In an ideal world, such a place on the Internet would be marketed and have lots of traffic. People seeking downtown properties would flock to it and then travel to small towns across Mississippi in search of that special property. Property owners and community organizations would provide listings of available properties. But this is not an ideal and such a Web site does not exist that I know of.

Therefore, not knowing of such a Web site I am providing a page on my Web site for such purposes. The Web address is www.philhardwick.com/downtownbuildings.html. Although I may benefit from shameless promotion, I am not charging or receiving any fee for this service. I’m not in the real estate brokerage business either, and will not receive any such commissions or fees. It is simply a way to help people discover downtown buildings available for sale.

So, I will throw up the Web site and we will see what happens.


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