The of downtown Lemont have shown little immunity to the national housing market woes, as the site's developers have been forced to slash prices on vacant loft and townhome units.
“The economy has driven all real estate pricing down,” said Kristen Coultas, sales manager for Front Street Lofts.
Of the 82 units in the development, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms spread across four five-story buildings, currently only 50 are occupied.
Last year, in an attempt to curb the buying slump and bring in more tenants, Front Street Lofts officials began reducing prices by about 40 percent, Coultas said.
When sales began nearly three years ago, a 1-bedroom loft started at $235,000. Today it is about $149,000.
But the price reductions have helped spur some interest, Coultas said.
“There are a lot of people moving into the area that want to be downtown,” she said.
The Front Street Lofts development, part of a multi-phase revitalization of Lemont's historic downtown area, includes ground-floor retail space and is home to Edward Jones Investments, 343 Front St., and Front Street Cantina, 319 Front St., a Mexican restaurant that opened last fall.
Ben DeVee, co-manager of Front Street Cantina, said though winter is generally a slower time, the restaurant's business has been “slightly better than we projected.”
“We knew that it was a new development and that it would take time,” DeVee said. “It’s kind of like a partnership. Our business will grow as (Front Street Lofts’ sales) grow.”
Brad Grcevic, of Edward Jones Investments, lauds the development as an asset for Lemont.
“It’s a difficult economic environment right now but it’s just a matter of time before it takes off,” he said.
Despite Front Street Lofts' sales slump, Paul Tabor, owner of in Lemont, said the village’s real estate market has not fared as badly as other area towns.
“Prices have been reduced but Lemont’s holding its own compared to other parts of Cook County,” he said.
In the last 12 months, Tabor said 120 single family homes and 47 condominiums have sold in Lemont. While many were likely foreclosures, “in all reality almost 200 homes in a bad market — Lemont’s actually not doing too bad,” he said.
Tabor anticipates homes sales to pick up even more this spring.
“It’s winter, so no matter what the real estate market is — whether it’s great or not that good — this time is slow no matter what,” he said. “It starts picking up in March.”
Continued downtown redevelopment could also be a boon to the real estate market.
Last year, Talcott Street was repaved and the first phase of the landscaping project along the I&M Canal was completed. The second phase of the project, which will run along the canal’s north side, is expected to be completed this spring.
Community Development Director Jim Brown said several infrastructure improvements are also planned for the downtown, contingent on finances.
“We’re just starting to look at the budget now,” Brown said. “We will have a better idea in a month.”
In the meantime, Front Street Lofts officials are hopeful the lower prices will reel in home buyers.
“It’s a great time to buy,” Coultas said. “Interest rates are awesome and the prices are right.”
For more information about Front Street Lofts, visit www.lemontlofts.com.