If you build a new luxury condo building in Walnut Creek, will they come?

A new urban, “boutique” development is opening in downtown Walnut Creek: 555YVR. That interesting title signifies its address, 555 Ygnacio Valley Road, around the corner from Target on North Main Street and within walking distance of BART and downtown.

The $40 million project features 87 units that consist of one- and two-bedroom flats, townhomes, and live/work spaces that have chic interiors, up to 10-foot-tall ceilings, generous pantry and closet space, and tailored floor plans. A rooftop “sky lounge” comes with an outdoor fireplace and 360-degree views of Mount Diablo and downtown Walnut Creek.

How much? UPDATE, thanks to Sunday’s Contra Costa Times, we learn that the units, ranging in size from will range in price from 763 to 1,400 square feet, will range in price from the high $300,000s to mid-$700,000s. The complex also has five affordable-housing units.
The construction of multi-family housing is the way of the future of Walnut Creek. Some of the 1,000 new units in multi-family buildings under construction, recently completed, or in the pipeline, are being set aside under the category of “affordable housing.”
Back in August 2007, after 555YvR’s Mill Valley developers broke ground, they were full of high hopes, according to the Contra Costa Times. “We’re obviously very bullish considering that we’re starting construction at this point in the market,” Bruce Dorfman of Thompson-Dorfman Partners told the Times.

Even the following year, the San Francisco Business Times was saying that sales of top-end condos throughout the East Bay, including in Walnut Creek, were going like gangbusters. The 181-unit Mercer on California Boulevard, where top floor condos were going for more than $1 million, was 70 percent sold out in August 2008. The building was also looking forward to filling its ground floor with high-end salons and restaurants.

Then came You Know What, and condo sales crashed throughout the East Bay. By November, the San Francisco Business Times was reporting that many developers were converting all their unsold condos to rentals. That apparently happened with the Mercer. I was told that the Mercer decided to lease out about 40 units.

As recently as yesterday, Craigslist had an ad for a one-bedroom apartment at the Mercer (with “gourmet kitchen,” 9-foot ceilings, and balcony overlooking pool) going for $2,350 a month. I’m no expert on the Walnut Creek rental market, but from perusing some online ads for apartments for rent I would say that $2,350 for a one-bedroom apartment is definitely on the high end.

Nevertheless, the Mercer’s plan apparently succeeeded, I called the Mercer today, and learned that all those rentals have been leased. I was asked if I wanted to be put on a waiting list.
Units in 555YVR start to go on sale in June. We’ll see how it goes. We’ve been hearing different things about the state of the economy and housing market. Today, we learned that consumer confidence was once again down, while in the past couple weeks, these expert analysts were highlighting signs of a recovery to begin in late June 2009.
With 555YVR, it could all come down to the one crucial factor in real estate: location, location, location!

20 thoughts on “If you build a new luxury condo building in Walnut Creek, will they come?

  1. Hi , Mercer did not sold out and has many problems. Practically rendering it un-sellable at this time. I hope 555YVR does better at their management and I hope buyers do their research!


  2. Great location! Sitting not 10 feet from very busy Ygnacio Valley Road. Who the hell would want to sit on a rooftop “sky lounge” with all the noise from BART, Hwy 680 and Ygnacio Valley Road? Guess they put in the outdoor fireplace to mask the fumes from all of the traffic below!

    Access to the project can only be made heading east on Ygnacio and exits can only be made going the same direction. So much for convenience!

    Why don’t our city fathers/mothers put a stop to such building madness until all of the units for sale in town are in short supply? A good example of condos sitting empty can be seen on Walker Avenue between Sierra and Homestead. Most are empty and whoever owns the place is not even marketing it anymore.

    Logic would tell even the most ignorant observer that we don’t need any more housing complexes built for the next several years.


  3. Gotta say that the sky lounge looks all nice, and the apartments all chic. But location, location, location? Near the gas station, DMV, the courthouse, the car dealership. Some views.

    I heard that there was some big grand opening with the city leaders probably heaping praise. If the units are not going for $1 million and for more affordable, reasonable prices there might be reason to celebrate.


  4. My brother rents a house up the street from Mercer for far less than those rentals, that’s amazing. I’m not a fan of high density housing, but at least the prices are coming down – spending $700,000 on a condo when you could get a house seems insane to me.


  5. Regarding – A good example of condos sitting empty can be seen on Walker Avenue between Sierra and Homestead.

    That place has been caught up in some type of legal issue.

    Let’s not let our city leaders determine real estate market timing. Geez.


  6. I was on their rooftop yesterday at he tail end of that city event and it was really amazing. I heard birds chirping, nothing else. Not really sure WTF “anonymous” is talking about. Entire place was quiet and they said mid700s was high, and HOAs $300-400, so, again, not outlandish. As for the road, we saw only live/work homes and townhomes there. Quiet inside where the courtyard was which really surprised me. Much hipper than what I saw at the Mercer.


  7. “Much hipper than what I saw at the Mercer.”

    Location, Location, Location. Mercer's got it, 555YVR don't, it's as simple as that, really. The 555YVR is located in a business area, and by business I mean boring office buildings, gas stations, and dilapidated mom & pop stores that don't look enticing to say the least. Not to mention it's on a very busy road. Every time I drive past it I think to myself what kind of shmoe would buy there. You couldn't pay me to live there in all honesty.


  8. At one point in my life the 555YVR & the Mercer would have been an ideal situation. I was traveling for business (Mon-Thur, Fri). To return home to a nice lux condo in a great town without the maintenance of a single family home would be nice. Not to mention being a short walk ( I don't mind walking) to all the shops, eateries and theater.

    I do think later in life (silver years) it would provide the same benefits. Lock your door, walk to bart, bart to SFO, fly to your destination. Return. Unlock the door unpack, walk downtown and enjoy!


  9. On a lark, we went to 555 YVR yesterday with my parents and loved it. My husband works in San Francisco and we’ve been looking at condos there. I’m the hold out because I like the weather here much better. This is two blocks from BART which is great because right now he drives in since we’re beyond Heather Farms. You also get so much more for your money here than in San Francisco and more within a few blocks walk (without the sketchyness). We want to explore more after work during the week as my dad camped out on the roofdeck so we had to cut it short.


  10. I don’t agree with the negative comments on here at all. Just checked out 555YVR and loved it! The homes are really modern with big windows and lots of light. The roof top is beautiful, with great views and a place to relax on warm nights. Good place to entertain friends! When inside the homes it really is quiet, which I wasn’t expecting. If you want to live in Downtown Walnut Creek I recommend checking this place out. 🙂


  11. I think these condos are great! I toured last week and I think the only negative was all the other people walking around – it was crowded! Great amenities – sky lounge especially. A one bedroom in the $400k range is a steal these days. Much nicer than the Mercer and in my opinion, one of the best new projects in the entire East Bay. Not sure if the rest of the posters have ever toured another project before. It sure doesn’t sound like it, but I guess people always love to gripe.


  12. I haven't seen any lights on, have they sold any units yet? I'd be surprised if they don't turn them into rentals like the Mercer had to do.


  13. I went to YVR this weekend, and they had a couple of below-market-rate (BMR) units for sale. The other units are still at market price. I love the interior finishes, especially the kitchen.


  14. I was laughing when the cctimes ran a adver-article on Mercer being 50% “sold-out” right in the teeth of the first wave of the housing bust. Now that we are through the second wave (third wave wave is 20-25% in 2010/11) I cannot see why someone would want to pay condo/HOA fees against a devaluing asset with low income owners/renters.
    555YVR is an awful location. Next to a mo-tel-no-tel, Burger King, Car Dealers and a pile of traffic out the front door.
    Another failure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s