Sunday, February 1, 2004

Realtor promotes downtown vision

[IMAGE] Realtor Christine Schoonover shows off the view from the Lofts at Graydon Place.
(Gary Landers photo)
Christine Schoonover, a Realtor at Huff Realty of Fort Mitchell, could have stuck with selling houses in eastern Cincinnati for years to come. Instead she chose to follow her vision of bringing housing to downtown Cincinnati.

During the 1990s, Schoonover was successful, comfortable if not wealthy. But in 1998, she turned her back on the sure thing - selling houses in Montgomery, Indian Hill and other high-dollar eastside neighborhoods - to sell condominiums and other residential properties in what was then an improbable housing market: downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine. Through the socially and economically challenging times of the late 1990s and early years of the new century, she kept promoting the value of downtown.

The secret to her discipline and her philosophy? "I work seven days a week, if that's what it takes to make the project a success - whatever project I'm working on," she says. "I have such a passion for changing downtown. I want to make a difference in our city. I believe downtown Cincinnati should be like New York, a hub and hive of activity."

Who: Christine Schoonover, senior sales vice president at Huff Realty
Native: Olympia, Wash.
Graduate: Master's degree in special education from Manhattan College.
Resident of Cincinnati since 1974
Most admired leadership style: Larry Beasley, city planner from Vancouver, B.C.
Self-described leadership style: Some people describe me as a company within a company. Persuasive, persistent and enthusiastic.
Time on the job each day: 12 hours
Ultimate career goal: See the city come back to life with people and families living downtown and more schools to serve families who will live in the central city.
First job and what was learned about management and leadership: Worked at my grandfather's candy factory in Olympia: Stone's Candy Cane Factory. My grandfather always did it right the first time. I learned from him to demand excellence.
If vision is a key attribute of leadership, says Tim Voss, founder and president of Middle Earth Developers, an urban residential real estate and development company, then Schoonover ought to be giving seminars. "Christine has been the single most important reason for the development we've seen downtown. She is the No. 1 rainmaker."

"I can't even sit and tell you how excited I am for a 100-unit condo project to come to the market," she says of Park Place at Lytle, a 1901-era office building that has been converted into condominium housing by Miller-Valentine Group.

And as for risk, Schoonover sometimes wonders: what risk? She knew all along that the market was there, and when 20 condominium units sold in 60 days for the Lofts at Graydon Place, she knew as sure as the Ohio River flows that downtown housing had an inertia that would only grow in strength, volume and reach.

Schoonover now has a new mission. She is looking for a few followers. She wants to woo experienced Realtors to Huff Realty, a firm she joined in December and that has opened a downtown office for central city real estate sales. She wants to see families living in those downtown condos.

"In one of the buildings on Main Street, couples in three of the 18 units have children. I think that's just great," she said. "I just love this city and I have always believed it is critical that people live downtown."

John Eckberg

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