Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More News About Electric Vehicles

I met a guy at The Dunhill last week named Brooks Agnew, President & CEO of Vision Motor Cars, Inc.  We met through my friend Bill Lamb owner of Amelies French Bakery in NoDa.  Bill is using one of Brooks vehicles to make deliveries to the downtown location of Amelies. 

As I have a strong interest in electric vehicles, I asked Brooks if he would write something for this blog, and he responded below.

America is in love with the automobile.  Our personal relationship with our cars and trucks is unique in history. Auto racing is among the most popular spectator sports ever created and dominates the expression of power and status in our society.  The American road has become the system by which everything we produce or consume travels by truck. 

The time has come; however, for this amazing myth to adapt to reality.  The cost of fuel for transportation has become too high for survival; in more ways than just the price at the pump.  The seasoned automotive engineers that founded Vision Motor Cars, with principal offices in Concord, North Carolina, have designed and built an affordable solution that is going into mass production this Spring.

The Everest light electric truck cab and chassis has finally completed the long road of product development to drive along side fuel-burners on the American highway.  The similarities are stunning.  The truck has heat and air conditioning, can drive 80 miles an hour, carry 1,000 pounds, and performs in every way just like its fuel-burning competition to distances up to 100 miles on a single charge.  Quite suitable for more than 90% of light truck operations in metro areas.

The differences are even more amazing.  The average light truck can travel about 17 miles on $3.45 worth of fuel.  The Everest can travel nearly 300 miles on the same money’s worth of pure, 100% American-made electricity.  Plug it in at your house with an ordinary outlet, drier outlet, or utilize the few high-power special charging stations slowly coming to the Charlotte area.  Or, you can just leave it in the sun, and it will charge itself up entirely for free.  Yes, they even have built in solar panels made right here in Concord to keep the batteries full.

The Everest is affordable at around $25,000 for the base model.  The VMC Urban Delivery Vehicle is perfect for hauling auto parts, appliances, furniture, and thousands of other items far more efficiently than a fuel-burning truck.  Hundreds of routes all over the city can be travelled without spending more than about a dollar a day.  No oil changes.  No belts, hoses, water, and no fuel of any kind.  After rebates, the average buyer could pay for the truck completely on the fuel savings in less than three years.  A small fleet could pay for a truck each year on the fuel savings directly to the bottom line, possibly making that critical competitive difference for any small business operator.  The VMC Everest is a vital hedge against the volatility of fuel prices.  While your fuel-burning competitors are cutting people to keep driving, you can rest easy as you drive past all the fuel pumps without looking.

When VMC production begins to meet the current high demand for the truck then the commuter cars will start coming off the line.  Their plans are to bring 1,200 good-paying jobs to Cabarrus County making affordable highway-ready electric vehicles.  A modern vehicle for a modern mankind.  Drive Electric.

Lower costs, help the environment, allow for more density, all things that will help an urban environment like Charlotte to increase property values.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Planets Are Aligning

Last month (Dec 18th) I wrote of the vibrancy of the downtown residential market.  In the January 13th edition of the Charlotte Observer, this story discusses the purchase of a piece of land, located next to The Catalyst apartments, that has been purchased by Childress Klein Properties.

The article quotes sources that underline the continued demand for downtown living and projects that it will remain strong even when condominium construction restarts.  Rents are also beginning to rise.  All good signs for people looking for property values to return.

This also represents further movement by Childress Klein Properties in the downtown market.  The One Wells Fargo building is currently being marketed by CKP for sale, and once it is sold, the company will be looking to further their investment in downtown property.

Just like the robin indicates the beginning of spring, this news indicates the beginning of the recovery.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bumps On The Tracks

"You have to break an egg to make an omelet!"  That is always the case.  Progress means changes in how things are done, and sometimes it can negatively impact some.  This article talks about how changes to the tracks will affect Harrisburg and its residents.

My belief is that we as a country are about to embark on rebuilding a rail system to connect inner cities as an alternative to air travel and highways.  Perhaps slower than air travel, but riders are deposited directly into a downtown area, in most cases closer to their final destination.  Trains are additionally not as confining as a plane, wider aisles, dining cars, etc.  The seats generally provide more personal work space.

Rail infrastructure will define how cities grow, and without good rail connections, we will be passed by.  Think back to the comedy Blazing Saddles.  The premise of that movie was who would get a rail stop and who would not.  Rail traffic in the 1800's built this country and defined where cities are located. It is happening again.

We in Charlotte have a secure spot on the future of inter-city rail connection.  The new AMTRAK station will be located on Trade and Graham Streets, and will quickly become an important part of the city.  The proximity to the station will increase property values in the downtown market.

So, looking at that article about the disruption of the current way of life in Harrisburg, we have to look at the general benefits for this society at large.  Additionally, a change in Harrisburg does not mean the end of Harrisburg, but rather the opportunity for changes to meet the future.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reshaping Third Ward

The accompanying picture does not look like much, but it is the start of something BIG!  The official groundbreaking for the Romare Bearden Park located in the Third Ward was on September 1, 2011, mostly to coincide with the 100 birthday of the artist, and the unveiling of his works at the Mint Museum.  It mostly consisted of politicians talking alot, and Jennifer Roberts operating some construction equipment as she knocked down a bit of a wall on a building slated for demolition.

What has happened since that day is that the buildings in question have come down and some clearing work has been done to the site.  This picture shows the beginning of the reformation of the streets in conjunction with the park.  Mint Street will be restructured to be two-way, and that is happening now.
The curve on Poplar Street will disappear, and Poplar will dead-end into Third Street at the Park, and it too will become two-way.

These two restructurings will allow for the park to expand to its full size, and that is good, but it will also act as a traffic slowing in that section of the city.  One-way streets are designed to move traffic fast and away.  Two-way streets are designed to slow traffic, and allow for easier and convenient access to the properties located there.

The reconstruction will also play havoc with the tailgate parties that gather there during football season.  Future development will also claim more of the land currently enjoyed by football fans, and the impending relocation of the Charlotte Knights will take even more land away.

Despite the inconvenience to those fans, these actions will create new opportunities for the city to develop more density, and perhaps begin the reintroduction of retail options to the city.  Density and growth will lead to an increased demand for space in the downtown market, and that will help to drive up property values in all areas of the downtown market.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Looking Back On 2011

The saying "a glass half empty vs a glass half full" is a good description of what happened in Charlotte during the past year. 

Unemployment remained uncomfortably high, yet there were numerous announcements of companies relocation either headquarters or major divisions to Charlotte.  Bank of America announced the start of the New BAC by indicating that the will shed 30,000 employees over the next three years.  While that sounds like a lot, a large percentage of those employees will leave through attrition.  Many others will post out of jobs being eliminated into newly created jobs in divisions that are growing, half empty or half full?

Duke and Progress Energy will be merging, and the headquarters of this company will be in Charlotte.  Raleigh will feel the largest pain in this merger, but many Progress employees will be relocating to Charlotte.  This will be the biggest part of the emerging energy and energy related companies looking to call Charlotte home.

City building made strides with the beginning of the Romare Bearden Park in the Third Ward, and the soon (?) to begin construction of the First Ward Park near the UNCC Uptown Classroom Building.  Both parks will spur construction activity on ancillary properties.  The key fact is that these parks have passed from proposed to under construction.

Condo development downtown during the year centered around the re-emergence of The Park, now called Skye, and The VUE.  Skye promises to be an interesting building.  Half Hyatt Hotel, and half condo, this development will bring vibrancy to the Second Ward.  I have been in some of the units under construction, and can relate that the views from the west side of this building are incredible, and the pricing is structured to quickly sell.

The VUE remains another issue.  There are reportedly around 200 existing contracts in place for this building.  Many of the contract holders are concerned that the value of the building has fallen below levels that make sense to purchase.  Others have found difficulty in getting appraisals to support the mortgages needed to close their deals.  The developer is entitled to keep deposits, but has been trying to sue to force people to close.

The developer has not been successful in getting the courts to back up his position. 

What is at stake here is getting people into the building.  Many of those units that are under contract are positioned in preferred locations in the building.  The developer has maintained the premium pricing for all the units (with some exceptions) and new contracts are slow come.  Once all the court cases and appeals end I would expect to see significant movement.

7Venth Market changed its name to 7th Street Public Market and opened in early December moving towards a Grand Opening in the April time period.  The Market was obligated to open due to contracts with some growers in the region, so it did.  It is a work in progress.

The Charlotte Knights baseball stadium made several strides, one from the county extending the time to have funding in place and dirt turned for an additional year.  Duke Energy was also linked to the Knights as a potential naming rights participant for the stadium, which should aid in securing construction loans.

It should also be noted that many of the companies looking to relocate here cite the Charlotte Douglas International Airport as a major consideration.  The airport continues to grow with the addition of a new runway and the placement of a multi-modal freight yard being placed between two of the runways. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More Insight About Renting VS Owning

Here is an exerpt from an article about the current market renting vs. owning:

Rising rents are forcing renters to outspend home owners on housing costs, according to a recent study. Since 2005, home owners’ housing expenses have climbed from 31.9 percent of their household budget to 33.2 percent. On the other hand, in that same time period, renters’ expenses have jumped from 35.6 percent to 38.4 percent, according to the October CoreLogic U.S. Housing Trends. In the last 26 years, home owners have increased the amount they spend on household expenses by 12 percent while renters have increased it by 22 percent, according to the study. Earlier this month, Capital Economics economists noted that for the first time in 30 years the median monthly home loan payment is about the same -- or less -- than the median rental payment. Yet, with the bleak job market, home ownership rates continue to fall in many parts of the country, particularly among younger generations. CoreLogic found in its report that the home ownership rate for the 25-to-34 age group dropped from 51.6 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2010. For the 35-to-44 age group, home ownership rates fell from 71.2 percent to 62.3 percent over that period. Source: RISMedia
This supports what I am seeing in the market as well.  Property owners are not negotiating on the price of rentals in any way.  Over the past year, the leased amount for a property is the same as the asking price for a property.  The numbers in the article above article also suppport that claim and indicate that prices for rentals are actually rising.

New construction by and large is in the multi-family rental property, and not in condos.  Developers always lag the market, and this market is no exception.  I do not expect to see any new construction of condominiums for the next 18 months.

The result of this will be a slow rise in price for existing properties, increasing the property value of homeowners.