Glaser takes on a heavy load of new projects

St. Paul, Minn.-based Glaser Financial Group has financed and assumed mortgage-servicing duties for more than $100 million in mortgages on 14 complexes in Minnesota, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Arkansas. Among the bigger projects, the company will:

- monitor the construction loan and service the $29 million permanent mortgage loan for American Can Apartments, a 268-unit apartment building in New Orleans;

- service the $15 million permanent mortgage for Skyline Towers Apartments, a 506-unit complex in St. Paul, Minn; and

- administer the $13.7 million permanent mortgage on Salem Green Apartments, a 320-unit complex in Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

Archon helps transform Houston neighborhood All over the country, urban areas are being revitalized, with apartments often playing a key role in the resurgence. Houston's Greenspoint neighborhood is a dramatic example of this phenomenon. In this case, Irving, Texas-based Archon Group is the catalyst.

Two years ago, Archon, on behalf of Goldman Sachs and Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds, both of New York, purchased 24 apartment communities totaling 5,000 units in the neighborhood. (Goldman Sachs owns Archon.) The company then went to work on a major renovation effort. At the time, the surrounding neighborhood was in bad shape, as the city's economic woes in the 1980s had sent Greenspoint into a downward spiral.

But now, the situation has changed. Combining the purchase price and the cost of renovations, Archon has invested $135 million in the area. The revamped apartments, now known as CityView Apartment Homes, are attracting more and more young professionals to the area, says Archon. The neighborhood is moving back onto the radar screen of Houston residents.

CityView Apartment Homes actually consists of 15 different properties in Greenspoint. The apartments have a combined 3.8 million sq. ft. of rentable space. Dallas-based Lincoln Property Co. manages CityView.

Archon's renovation efforts have equipped the units with the types of amenities associated with modern, upscale and garden-style apartments: high-speed Internet access, a fitness room and pools.

Crown molding, two-tone designer wall colorings and updated kitchens are some of the interior improvements that Archon has made. The average household income at CityView has grown from $13,000 three years ago to nearly $40,000 today, according to Darin Cook, senior asset manager for Archon Residential.

"There have always been many attributes to the Greenspoint area," but the retail and multifamily real estate sectors fell on troubled times in the 1980s," says Cook. "We recognized the opportunity to improve the area with a long-term investment in revitalization."

In an effort to make Houston residents stand up and take notice (and perhaps rent an apartment at CityView), Archon has launched an aggressive marketing campaign. The advertising blitz includes billboards that have graffiti on one side and bright colors on the other, accompanied with the phrase: "Living in Greenspoint has completely changed."

Also, a radio ad discusses childhood myths, noting, "They aren't real - kind of like the one about how Greenspoint isn't a nice place to live."

"Our challenge now is to deliver the message that CityView and Greenspoint are new and improved communities," says Cook. "We definitely have to overcome the negative perception of the area because it no longer reflects the truth."

To accommodate prospective renters, Archon and Lincoln have built a centralized leasing office that provides people with the chance to review information on all 15 properties at once.

Cook says Greenspoint's upswing should continue. "Business and community leaders in the area are committed to continuing the revitalization that is currently under way," he notes. "CityView fills a need in providing quality, affordable dwellings in a very accessible and thriving location."

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