Vue points

As tower starts new rental chapter, Sheldon Gold is one happy investor

CHARLOTTE — Sheldon Gold owns an apartment in New York City and some buildings in Costa Rica.

He also owns a piece of Charlotte real estate, in the notorious residential high-rise building known as The Vue.

Sheldon Gold says he’s anything but upset that The Vue has been converted to apartments. Photo by Scott Baughman

The 51-story condo-turned-apartment project has been an endless source of negative headlines, thanks to its struggles to lure buyers, legal troubles and a collapse into foreclosure.

In June, the building was sold in a foreclosure auction. Only about 20 condos out of more than 400 sold. The new owner, Northwood Ravin, has begun renting out the condos as apartments.

The problems that have plagued The Vue — not to mention the moments, during the past few years, of uncertainty about its future — could be enough to make the people who bought a condo there ready to pull their hair out and wonder “What was I thinking?”

Gold, though, said he isn’t feeling regret about his purchase. Instead, he said, the apartment conversion of The Vue has left him sitting pretty.

“Everyone is asking me if I’m upset that the building is going to apartments, and I say, ‘Of course I’m not,’” Gold said. “Do you know what makes something valuable? Scarcity is what.

“Now that these are apartments, I’m one of about 15 people in the building who owns instead of rents. My unit is now a very rare commodity. And in real estate it is about scarcity and location. This condo of mine now has those in spades.”

Gold, 86, and his wife, Terri, bought their 2,200-square-foot condo in The Vue in 2010, when the real estate industry was in the throes of the Great Recession.

Their unit sits in a corner of the 33rd floor of the building at 404 W. 5th St., in the heart of uptown.

Gold said he fell in love with his condo the first time he saw it.

“What I liked was this was a new building with a great location and a great design,” he said. “The common areas are fantastic, better than most of the buildings in New York City. And we are very impressed with Charlotte in general.”

He gestured to his couch, where there was a stack of magazine articles on Charlotte being a good place to retire.

“I did my research, and this was a great place for us to come,” he said. “But when it is real estate, I learned a long time ago that you don’t want to rent. You want to own.”

Gold declined to disclose exactly how much he paid for his condo in The Vue, but he said it cost a little more than $1 million.

A gregarious man, Gold greets visitors to his condo with a boisterous hello and a warm handshake, then usually starts pointing out the building’s features.

“One of the things I like best is the way security is handled,” he said, pointing to a magnetic lock on the elevator panel as he waved a remote control on his key ring at the box. “You can only select your own floor, the lobby or the 8th floor, where all the amenities are. You can’t get off on another floor.”

Gold, with enthusiasm, then explained why that’s better than the typical New York City apartment.

“In the apartments up there, when you have the pizza guy come deliver your pie, you pay him and he gets back on the elevator,” he said. “But then, he’s free to go to whatever other floor and do who knows what. This way, he comes in, makes a delivery and he goes back downstairs and goes about his business, no fuss.”

The fact that no visitor is allowed on a floor without permission from a resident also helps keep out those pesky brochures from restaurants and other businesses, he said.

Gold said he’s had a long career in real estate, from selling and developing to designing buildings in New York and Costa Rica.

“And this is one of the best projects I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The amenities here are incredible. We don’t have things like this in even the nicest buildings in New York. The fitness center here is amazing. And everywhere the building is so open and has so much space.”

Gold said he doesn’t understand why more people didn’t buy in The Vue when condos were available at a “very reasonable” price and even close to “cheap” for a comparable condo in his native New York.

“I’ve built over 30 buildings in my career in Costa Rica now, and I can tell you that it isn’t like this,” he said. “The people who didn’t buy, or the ones who are selling their contracts back to Northwood right now, are going to be kicking themselves.”

Ken Szymanski, executive director of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, said Gold might be on to something. But there are a lot of unknowns, he said.

“The scarcity argument is a good one and that makes sense,” Szymanski said. “If it hadn’t been converted and the majority of the dwellings were vacant, that would have a tendency to take the value south. His hypothesis is sound, but it is hard to say whether he’ll be right.

“That is pure speculation as to what will happen with the rent rates. What will the rents be there in 2014? No one knows, and that is the driver on that. You’d have to have a crystal ball.”

Dennis Marsoun, a broker with Church Street Realty, said Gold’s theory will likely hold true, but only in the long term.

“I believe that The Vue will revert to condos within five to eight years,” he said. “I think the units that closed and are owned outright probably represent some of the most desirable units in the building, and when the building is for sale again, they will retain, and increase, their value. Short term, the prospects are not attractive for existing owners, but long term they are.”

Back on the 8th floor, Gold points out other features at The Vue, from the tennis and basketball courts to a small patch of imported grass.

“That grass? It’s real, and they planted it up here to have a place for people’s dogs to go use the bathroom,” he said. “I know the market has gone down, but where else are you going to find a building like this in uptown?

“This is certainly the nicest apartment building in the city and all along the coast, in my opinion. And there are a variety of layouts of rooms. They aren’t all the same apartment like they are in New York.”

He takes a moment to consider the word “uptown,” which was adopted by Charlotte boosters and often sounds odd to out-of-towners who assume the area is referred to as downtown, which is what most cities call their central business districts.

“Terri and I call this downtown,” he said. “Other people call it uptown. You know, I’m from New York. I say let’s just call it midtown and satisfy everybody.”

Gold reflects on another reason he likes The Vue:

“We don’t drive,” he said. “We don’t even own a car. In New York, there is plenty of public transit, but here we don’t even have to worry about that because there’s a grocery store, a nail salon and all of that right there.”

Perhaps more people will see what Gold sees and decide to rent in The Vue. And as more renters move in, Gold will be happier, he said.

“Now the Vue has what? 20 condos out of 400 apartments?” he said. “When the building is fully rented, my condo will be even more valuable.

“What makes a diamond worth money is scarcity. We’re talking about only 5 percent of the units here in The Vue that can be bought or sold from their owners. This is good news for people who knew to buy here when they could.”


BAUGHMAN can be reached at scott.baughman@mecktimes.com.

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