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Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Andrew Pratt, left, and Alan Wood stand at the site of the Metro Condominiums, a 117-unit project under construction at 350 S. 200 East in Salt Lake City.

The big house, big yard and big commute are being traded in for the small condominium.

At least, that is the case for Steve McArthur of Alpine.

McArthur is one of 176 people competing for 117 condominium units now under construction in downtown Salt Lake City.

Located at 350 S. 200 East, the Metro Condominiums are getting a lot of attention from people who want a piece of downtown real estate, especially baby boomers. Each interested buyer must put down $2,500 to hold a reservation on a waiting list.

And with demand outstripping supply, Alan Wood, developer of the Metro, said he has no need to advertise.

"It really caught us off-guard," Wood said. "We knew that demand would be strong but not quite this strong."

The seven-story structure, scheduled for completion in September 2007, offers studio to three-bedroom units, with starting prices ranging from $99,000 to $330,000.

While some people on the Metro waiting list are speculators hoping to make a quick profit by flipping the property, Wood said the majority are people who want to live downtown.

It is the Metro's proximity to dining, clubs, cultural events and TRAX that is drawing people like McArthur, who is 45 years old.

"At some point in the not-that-distant future I will probably be selling my home and downsizing, maybe snowbirding," McArthur said. "I like the idea of being downtown. I've got family, kids, soon-to-be grandkids in the Salt Lake area, so I will always want to keep some form of residence in Salt Lake."

James Wood, director of the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said a similar burst of downtown residential building activity occurred in the late 1990s.

Since 2000, Wood said, there have been 10 new housing developments completed in downtown, including Parc at The Gateway (152 units), Uffens Marketplace (45 units) and Library Square Condominiums (29 units).

"The recent additions to the housing inventory are evidence of the growing demand for downtown housing," said Wood, who added that the downtown housing boom has increased the number of units by 80 percent in less than 10 years.

Roughly 3,400 total residential units lie in Salt Lake City's central business district, providing housing to 6,000 people, according to Wood. Yet less than 14 percent of those housing units are owner-occupied.

As part of its massive downtown redevelopment project, the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plans to construct 900 new housing units.

"Can you imagine condos overlooking Temple Square?" Wood said. "You get some rich Californians who've got money to burn, and they will really stimulate the market again. I'm sure a sizable amount of those will be owner-occupied. I think they are going to do very well on those."

Bob Springmeyer, who lives in a single-family home in the Avenues, also is on the Metro waiting list.

"We're looking to downsize," Springmeyer said. "We like the location. We like convenience, access to TRAX, access to the library. My wife works in the mayor's office in Salt Lake, so she is obviously attracted to the convenience to the (Salt Lake) City-County Building."

In addition to those benefits, Springmeyer hopes to purchase one of the Metro's handful of live-work units, a two-story structure that houses retail and office space at street level with an interior stairway connecting to a residence above.

Springmeyer said if he is offered the right space, he will move his economic consulting office, Bonneville Research, from 200 S. 200 West and work from home.

"The market downtown was up more than 20 percent last year," said Andrew Pratt, director of sales and marketing for the Metro. "And the market is still underserved. You've got the baby boomer population that is finding condominium living very appealing."

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Chris Corroon, former director of sales at Parc at The Gateway, said developers have been slow to react to Salt Lake's strong condo demand.

The Parc condos, which started selling in 2002, are now sold out, Corroon said, with some of the high-end units having sold for nearly $500,000.

"We struggled a little bit at first because of the economy, and the condo market downtown really wasn't proven, especially the new condo market," Corroon said. "Now, there is a ton of demand. I think you are going to see more stuff coming on the market in the next couple of years."


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