August 12, 2008 in City

Follow your dreams … until they’re too expensive

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Two examples of how things are going for Matt Roberts.

1. Minutes prior to my arrival Monday morning, some dude from the power company showed up at Roberts’ ground-level condo to cut off his juice for nonpayment.

Roberts told the guy about our interview. The man agreed to return later in the day to 417 W. First Ave.

Who says Avista workers don’t have hearts?

2. I drove up just in time to see a meter patrolman affixing a parking ticket to the windshield of Roberts’ white Porsche.

Roberts has had to park on the street ever since one of his “friends” broke the electronic door on his mini-garage.

The lanky 34-year-old sent me an e-mail Sunday in which he laid out his situation.

“Matt needs to sell his dream loft now, help!” he wrote. That “would adequately describe my current state of affairs.”

(Of course, I don’t know beans about economics, real estate or all the reasons why Roberts would be in a bad fix. But that kind of stuff has never stopped me before. So I decided to go hear him out.)

We last visited Roberts 15 months ago. He was flying high back then, turning 2,400 square feet inside the ancient Oakley building into one of Spokane’s coolest downtown condos.

Loft bedrooms. Welded chandeliers. An enormous custom kitchen island. A staircase made out of tabletops. Hardwood floors. Exposed brick walls. Stainless steel appliances …

The condo was a huge draw at the “Live it Up!” tour of downtown lofts and lifestyles.

Roberts said he bought into the rustic old building at a good price. He had some other condo projects cooking. Making a killing in real estate seemed so easy.

And why not?

The economy was still thrumming along like a V-8 engine. Banks were still handing out loans like water cups at Bloomsday.

Who knew the balloon was about to pop?

Roberts said he is now out of cash and months behind in his bills. “I get a lot of people calling asking for money,” he said. “I feel horrible.”

There is still a significant hunk of equity in his condo, he added. Accessing that would be a lifesaver. But getting a loan is difficult enough these days without being behind in your payments.

The bottom line?

Roberts figured he’s closing in on “being back to square one.”

Unless he can sell the place, that is. Trouble is, the market for $600,000 swinging downtown pads isn’t as robust as it once was.

Oh, well. At least no one can take away Roberts’ memories.

“I lived the dream for a year,” he said, adding that he “pretty much became a professional host.”

Roberts had more drop-ins than a gas giveaway. That can happen when your front door opens out onto the wilds of the city sidewalk.

Roberts recalled a group of roller derby girls who were engaged in a bachelorette party. Come on in, he said. Soon one of the women was “on the floor, leg wrestling my alpha male buddy and beating him.”

Another time he opened his door to some passing unicyclists. Bartenders would show up after hours. A Canadian band playing at the Knitting Factory paid a visit after their show. Ditto a family of Christian evangelists.

“People would call me up at 9 p.m. and ask what I was doing. I’d tell them I haven’t a clue. By midnight or sunrise I’d have no idea what to expect.”

Roberts’ computer is loaded with photographs taken of hipsters attending his urban happenings.

“The space is beautiful, obviously, and it attracts beautiful people,” said one fetching young blonde woman in a video of Roberts’ condo endorsements.

You know. Perhaps unloading this place isn’t such a bad idea.

By the sound of it, Roberts could use the rest.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.

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