Chic Spotlight: Realtor and Downtown Future-Forger, Kathleen Norris
Cincy Chic: You started your own real estate company, Kathleen Norris and Associates, LLC, under the Huff Realty umbrella. What made you decide to do this and become a realtor in the first place?
Kathleen Norris: I actually didn’t really choose to be a realtor, though both my parents were. When I was 21, I got a real estate license to please my father — I’m very, very old so those were different times! But I spent the first 30 years of my career running theater companies in various places around the world. When I retired from that, I founded Kathleen Norris & Associates, as a consulting company, which led me to the Gateway Quarter project . In order to do that work, a real estate license is a necessary tool.
My practice of real estate is very limited — I focus solely on recruiting for commercial districts in transitional neighborhoods — but the thing that I like most is the chance to help build and rebuild my home town. The neighborhoods I work in will be among the places that will make this a great city for the 21st century — diverse, walkable, beautiful and filled with wonderful, independent shops.
Real estate is a great profession for a woman because it’s relationship driven and if you work hard — which we know women do — you can make a good living.
Cincy Chic: Why did you choose Huff Reality above all the other agencies?
Norris: The Gateway Quarter Development team chose Huff to handle the residential sales, and since this brought us the company’s superb marketing and support services, it just made sense to have the commercial activity through the same agency.
Huff was founded by a local couple and has a strong focus on this area. What I learned from my dad is that you want to work with an agent who really understands the neighborhood where you want to live. Huff has agents with that commitment and local knowledge.
Cincy Chic: You have been active in the revitalization of Over the Rhine with projects such as the Gateway Quarter, and we hear that you are single-handedly spearheading the transformation of Main Street into downtown’s first fashion district. What exciting news! Tell us more about it and why do you think there hasn’t been a fashion district sooner.
Norris: Um…that single-handed thing…nope. You’re going to help,…you and all the stylish Cincy Chic readers. Because a fashion district is something we all want.
We have a very distinct focus for retail in the Gateway Quarter: contemporary- urban style and design. Our first phase was on Vine Street, and we sought merchants selling primarily products for the home. Now, as we develop condos and renovate retail spaces on Main, we’re going to add shops that specialize in personal style.
I think we forget that this may be the retail capital of the United States with Macy’s, Procter and Gamble and Kroger all headquartered here. We have a truly huge number of creative people for a city our size.
In the Gateway Quarter, we’re bringing that creativity down to street level. We specialize in independent shops run by clever and stylish entrepreneurs. They’re local, which means they truly know their customers, but they’re also connected and curious, which means they find merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else in town.
That kind of shopping is a real big-city adventure and just what I think Cincinnati wants and deserves.
So, here are my questions: What’s missing? Where are the great independent shops in town now? Who knows how to make this a more stylish city?
Cincy Chic: In your professional opinion, what are some of the best neighborhoods in the area? Why did you choose Hyde Park as your place of residence?
Norris: I believe the suburbanization movement is over. The hot neighborhoods of the future are going to be within the city and on great public transit — which we’re going to rebuild — places where shopping, dining and all kinds of amenities are available without getting into your car. So look at the Gateway Quarter, Oakley, DeSales Corner, Northside, Hyde Park and other places which that support a more neighborly lifestyle.
When I moved back to Cincinnati in 1989, I had two young daughters and was caring for my aging parents. Hyde Park suited all that. But I’m on my own now, so the house is about to go on the market (anyone interested in a real beauty at a great price?), and I’m moving to the Gateway Quarter.
Cincy Chic: In real estate terms, what is unique about the Tri-state area?
Norris: Cincinnati’s major deficit is a massive inferiority complex. I have lived in two of the most wonderful cities in the world — New York and Sydney, Australia — and traveled to many other great places. This city has it all — beauty, interest, stability — and it’s so easy to live here.
Cincy Chic: What advice do you have for those who have never worked with a real estate agent before? What can they expect from the whole process?
Norris: Take it seriously, look for someone you like and feel you can trust. Then don’t hesitate to ask a million questions at every point in the process. Buying a house is the biggest economic decision most people ever make — get an advisor who really knows their stuff to help you.
Cincy Chic: What are some of the hottest trends in the industry you are seeing locally?
Norris: Without question, the hottest trend is urban living. People are realizing how great it is to be in the city, and how much life that adds to your life.
Cincy Chic: How have the recent turbulent events in the mortgage/foreclosure industry affected real estate locally? What advice do you have for those hesitant in making big purchasing/selling decisions in this market? Is it as bad as the news is making it out to be?
Norris: It’s not really bad, though from the press reports it would be easy to believe the end of the world is near. The biggest problem is that mortgage dollars are unusually tight, so you’re going to probably need slightly better credit and may have to look a little harder. But our residential specialists in the Gateway Quarter are selling a condo a week, and they’re helping buyers locate the financing they need. So, things are definitely not at a standstill.
Find a good agent, find the home you want and work together to make it happen. And don’t get discouraged!
Cincy Chic: What do you do in your free time?
Norris: I’m the quietest person in town when I’m off duty. I love to read, travel, go to movies and I’m lucky to have a few good friends to hang out with. I’m also trying to get my cooking skills back in shape after years of making meals primarily for children — all meat loaf, all the time!
Cincy Chic: What’s your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Norris: I’ve lived and worked all over the world, but this is my hometown. I love everything about it.
Photo: Courtsey of Kathleen Norris