A GIFT for Greenwich
It is no secret that Greenwich has been hurt by the most severe recession since the 1930s. Our town is at or near the epicenter of the
financial earthquake that has spread across the country and the world, and when the tremors die down it’s safe to say that nothing is going to be quite the same. The economic impact on Greenwich is magnified by the sudden fall from the heights of prosperity spawned by Wall Street’s million dollar bonuses and the outsized earnings of many of our local hedge funds. The pain of adjustment is manifested in the sudden loss of value in both residential and commercial real estate.
At last count there were twenty-two stores in the Central Business District available for lease. The decline in retail sales varies widely by store according to the Chamber of Commerce, but they have been substantial. Recently, with leasehold costs more reasonable, brokers are seeing an increase in negotiation over new storefront space. Office space, however, has yet to turn around. As of September 745,844 square feet, or 17 percent of the total market was available for rent or sublet, with a disproportionate increase in sublets as companies downsize or close. Meanwhile, the median price of homes has tumbled 22 percent, and at the present rate of sales it will take over two years to eliminate our inventory of high-end homes. Not surprisingly, rental occupancy has increased as owners put their unsold homes up for rent.
Still, Greenwich is not like Las Vegas, Phoenix or a retirement community. We have a solid foundation of domestic and international business, as well as many hedge funds and other financial companies that have survived the worst of the financial tsunami. Signed contracts for single family homes have increased each month through August, albeit from a dismal historic low in January. While Greenwich may take longer this time to return to full economic well-being, it has shown an amazing ability to spring back from previous recessions. Its balance sheet of assets is so uniquely appealing that we need to remind ourselves, as well as our neighbors, what a fabulous town this is in which to live and work.
This is precisely the mission of a new campaign that has grown out of several brainstorming sessions sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Under the umbrella name GIFT, standing for Greenwich Initiative for Tomorrow, it is a cooperative advertising and promotion campaign designed to burnish the image and enhance the reputation of our town. For many living in the city or elsewhere, the mention of Greenwich conjures up images of the rich and super-rich living in imposing mansions behind gated entrances. It should be noted, however, that many of the town’s most outstanding facilities would not have been created were it not for the generosity of some of our wealthiest residents. And, what is lost to many not living here is our wide diversity that includes a large and important middle-income population as well as a solid number of families in the service industry and low income housing projects. This diversity extends beyond wealth. There is a rich tapestry of different cultures from around the world, of languages and races including both Hispanic and a growing number of Asians. Even among those born in the United States, so many of us have moved here from elsewhere that born and bred Greenwichites are becoming a distinct minority. Rather than a liability, this diversity has made Greenwich inter-esting and vibrant.
The GIFT program will remind us and neighboring communities of our town’s impressive list of amenities that include the availability to residents of a wide range of cultural and recreational activities at little or no cost. To touch on a few:
We have Long Island Sound at our doorstep for sailing, fishing, swimming and crew; eight private golf courses plus our world class municipal course; riding on backcountry trails; hiking and bird- watching in our multitude of parks.
The YMCA with a new fifty-meter pool, the YWCA with pool and fitness center, and the Boys & Girls Club with both pool and indoor skating rink provide outstanding facilities.
Cultural opportunities abound with the Bruce Museum of Art & Science; the Greenwich Historical Society, preserving 375 years of Greenwich history; Greenwich Library plus three neighborhood branches the Symphony and the Choral Society.
For our health and safety, a superb new hospital, a top-rated ambulance service and our recently completed police headquarters, incorporating hi-tech emergency communications systems, play major roles.
High on the list of many a prospective homebuyer is our excellent public school system including eleven elementary schools, three middle schools, and a high school. In addition there is a choice of three private schools pre-K through 12 and six pre-K through 9.
There are at least eighteen nonprofit organizations serving children, senior citizens and everything in between. Whatever a person’s needs or interest may be, there is an organization or service that provides them. We doubt there is another town or city anywhere the size of Greenwich that offers so much.
Last but not least, Greenwich is widely known as a premier shopping destination. The GIFT message will be delivered in cooperation with stores and businesses that want to enhance the image of Greenwich not only as a place to live and work, but as an attractive commercial center offering quality products and services at fair prices. The vitality of our retail business has a direct influence on the value of properties in Greenwich as a whole.
We are blessed with a wonderful place to live, work, play and shop. With real estate prices low, there has never been a better time than now to buy a home or lease space for your business in Greenwich. This is the bottom line message of GIFT.