It's with respectful empathy I report that a group of local homebuilders are losing gobs of money, but also with a smirk that I report that those losses are associated with the annual Street of Dreams showcase of luxury suburban homes.
As Ryan Frank reports in today's Oregonian, not one of the homes from the 2007 Street of Dreams--located this year on Grasle Road outside Oregon City--has sold. Normally, a few homes sell during the show and most are sold within a year. This year, they're all either vacant or occupied by the builders.
The Street of Dreams is a popular longtime showcase of the biggest and most expensive homes, but this time around they've been hurt by the nation's tumbling mortgage market. Yet I'd argue there's more than a credit crisis keeping these homes empty. After World War II and for several decades the American suburb was the destination for many millions of middle class and affluent familes. Hundreds of thousands still move there each year. But we're in the midst of a multi-decade reversal in which the most coveted locales are now much closer in to central cities.
After all, if the mantra of real estate is location, location, location, who wants to live in a subdivision outside Oregon City for $3 million? I can see living in the country outside Oregon City. That would probably be a nicely pastoral, bucolic setting. But a subdivision of McMansions that are in most cases not even designed by a real architect? (Less than 10 percent of single-family homes are designed by architects; the rest, such as these Street of Dreams homes, usually come from mass produced and/or draftsperson-originated designs.)
McMansions are architectural SUVs. Notice General Motors just shut down several of their sport utility vehicle factories?
I'd like to see a new kind of Street of Dreams, an urban one. How about if you got the developers of a few different condos to reserve units and have some top interior designers go to work on them? Maybe one is in Thomas Hacker Architects' Atwater Place in South Waterfront, another in the BOORA-designed Metropolitan, another in GBD Architects' Casey. Tell me those would all be on the market a year from now.