NEW ORLEANS — Matt Schwartz and his business partner Chris Papamichael have been quietly marketing to an ever-changing population in New Orleans.
Their offices are in a development called The Shop, on the top two floors of the Contemporary Arts Center on Camp Street.
It's a space their company, The Domain Companies, has developed in a long-term deal with the CAC. It's a massive office space that caters in great part to a market they appear to be targeting: young entrepreneurial business people.
“We're really trying to look at the community and say what does this market need? What can we do to deliver a product that people want, that will improve their lives and lifestyles and make this city a better place?” said Schwartz.
That philosophy fits in well with their biggest property, the South Market District, where they have four buildings with parking, business space and apartments. And now there's a fifth building going up: the Odeon. It'll be a 30-story mixed-use apartment building opening next year.
But the crown jewel at South Market is their high-end condo development, the Standard.
“The Standard does reflect how, in some ways, the city is changing. But New Orleans is changing,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of activity here. We’re seeing a diversification of our economy with new industries and new opportunities and we want to be part of that and through what we do help support that, by creating the projects we have which help build on that momentum.”
The condos here range in price from $550,000 to more than $1 million. They range in size from one to three bedrooms and the view on the upper floors is spectacular.
There is common space on the third floor with meeting rooms and a spacious pool area with 16 cabanas. Four are for everyone to use, the others were sold for private use reportedly in the neighborhood of $30,000 to up to $100,000 each.
So the question we had for Schwartz: Where are the people coming from to fill all his apartments and the 80-plus luxury condos at the Standard?
“They’re coming from a lot of places, but just as much as people are coming from out of market, I think what we’re seeing is people wanting to stay in the market,” Schwartz said. “We have some great colleges and universities in New Orleans and I think historically people had come here for a great education, often times they had come up with great ideas, technologies, businesses and then they’ve taken those ideas and technologies and gone elsewhere.”
He thinks his company’s developments could help lure young people to stay in New Orleans or others to come back downtown. One of them is David Vicknair.
“I lived in Lakeview for a while but I worked downtown so I really was looking to live in this type of area where it was a neighborhood where you could easily walk to a restaurant, walk to a bar, meet some friends have a couple drinks, so to be able to live in that type of environment in New Orleans was really appealing to me,” Vicknair said.
Vicknair grew up in Thibodaux, went to Loyola Law School, and says the Standard was just a good fit.
“We have all these new bars and restaurants that are in this area, are within 100, 200 feet to walk, walking distance. All different types of services, not just bars and restaurants, there’s a pet care place, a laundry, everything in one central area and we have a Rouses, so it is in very many ways like a neighborhood," Vicknair said.
Vanessa Van Vrancken is another local who was bought here.
“The building, I think, is like no other in the city,” she said. “What was very important to me was parking, I needed it to be secure. And then the amenities are beautiful, I think they’re second to none in the city. We have so much common living spaces we can enjoy with the other neighbors, but we have a lot of space here, which is nice for an apartment.”
Schwartz says at the Standard there is a good mix of locals and out-of-towners looking for a second home. He says most of his apartments at South Market are rented to people who live here.
We asked him about the gamble he and his company took on the project.
“We don't really roll the dice. We do a lot of homework with every project. We’ve also kind of progressed incrementally as we’ve delivered our projects, as we’ve done new things in the market, each thing we’ve done – whether it was the creative office space, the different hotel products, the different apartment or housing products, even the different restaurants that we’ve opened and been involved with – as we progressed, we’ve seen demand for that.”
According to Schwartz their homework has paid off and their investment in New Orleans is far from over.