As Jamie Van Leeuwen was reading the proclamation from his boss, Gov. John Hickenlooper, declaring Nov. 9 as “Gordon Von Stroh Day,” he stopped, caught his breath, turned to the 250 business leaders and associates gathered to honor – and gently lampoon – Von Stroh, and said: “This is the longest proclamation I’ve ever seen. This is a two-hour proclamation.” But then, when it comes Von Stroh – creator of an apartment statistical data base that is the envy of the nation, a business professor at the University of Denver for the past 45 years, and a fierce advocate for affordable housing – there is a lot to commemorate. Today, Von Stroh was honored by the non-profit Rock Mountain Communities’ at its inaugural awards breakfast, established to “celebrate an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment, passion, and wisdom in support of affordable housing.” Although Von Stroh’s passions are many – in addition to teaching he has long volunteered and been a guiding force at the Central City Opera House Association and helped create the Cherokee Ranch and Castle Foundation – many of the people attending the awards breakfast at the Cable Center on the DU campus know him best for the comprehensive apartment survey he has researched and compiled since 1981.
Von Stroh’s reports carry a lot of weight
“Arguably, millions of dollars of capital has come to the Denver area because of Gordon’s studies,” said Mike Zoellner, President and CEO of RedPeak Properties, one of Denver’s largest apartment development and ownership companies. “Denver was not known as a place for institutional money even 10 years ago, but Gordon’s reports have given institutional investors the confidence to invest here,” Zoellner added. The flip-side is that Von Stroh’s reports also have helped Denver from becoming horribly over-built as many other areas, as his reports details such things as average and median rents, vacancies by age, geography and product type, so they track in real-time when supply and demand appear to be out of balance. Also, because Von Stroh’s report is from an academic institution, it has more credibility than other reports, Zoellner said. Eric Tupler, a vice chairman of CBRE Capital Markets, who has placed more than $6 billion in commercial real estate financing, agreed.
“When you compare what Gordon produces, you just don’t find that kind of depth and detail in other cities,” Tupler said. That is exactly right, agreed Doug Andrews, a principal of the Denver office of Apartment Realty Advisors, one of the main sponsors of the event. “What his report provides is not only current market conditions, but historic data,” Andrews said.“There are not many places where you can go back 30 years with the type of comprehensive data that his reports provide.”
Drawing the line at mooning
DU Provost Gregg Kvistad said that Von Stroh’s guiding principle is summed up in four words: “How can I help?” His help was widely sought, he said, which he noted led to countless meetings, and working breakfasts, lunches, dinners, “and did I mention meetings?” But Von Stroh never complained. And his work often remained in the background, as he didn’t seek the spotlight. Few know, for example, that one of his research projects provided the basis for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which provides millions of dollars in funding for a wide variety of non-profits.
One of the few times Kvistad ever saw Von Stroh lose his cool was when an undergraduate at DU decided to drop his trousers and moon all of the students, parents, faculty and friends gathered for a graduation. When Von Stroh went to eject the student from the building, he pleaded his case by saying that his grandmother was in the audience. “You mooned your grandmothers?” responded an incredulous Von Stroh. That vignette provided a seamless segue to the roast part of the event, for Von Stroh, known for his self-deprecating humor. Jeff Hawks, a principal of Apartment Realty Advisors, took the stage wearing a Von Stroh mask, and answered “questions” from people in the audience.
Many of them dealt with Von Stroh’s age (he’s 69) and his tightness with a dollar. One question, for example, involved the median rental price of the Cliffs at Mesa Verde. The answer was five bushels of maze and we learned that the Anasazi revered him as an elder statesman.
Several people asked, given their decades of friendship with him, could they get a discount to the Central City Opera. “No,” was always the answer.
And we were told he married a minister not so much to learn to be a better Christian, but because he would not be required to put any money in the collection basket during Sunday services.
One person asked how his statistics showing that the average rent could be trusted, when he put it at $925.50 per month, and it clearly was $925.70. Von Stroh’s research made it clear that 47.856 percent of statistics are irrelevant anyway.
On a more serious note, Von Stroh was diagnosed with ALS, better-known as Lou Gehrig’s disease last May. Part of the donations from the Rocky Mountain Communities’s event are going to ALS research. Although there is no cure for the disease, Von Stroh noted that “miracles do happen. This is not my last rodeo.” Those gathered responded the only way the could. They gave him a standing ovation.
Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com< class="related_post_title">Related Posts:>