OK, so $2 million for a family loft downtown sounds steep. So, too, does $1 million for a one-bedroom condo or a half-million for a stylish but teensy studio.
But maybe not -- for a moneyed Mormon who yearns to live across the street from the faith's most iconic symbol: the Salt Lake Temple.
After all, how much would a Catholic pay for a condo view of the Vatican or an Orthodox Jew to live near the Wailing Wall?
Those seven-digit eyepoppers mark the majority of the sticker prices for City Creek Center's first two residential towers, being built and bankrolled by the LDS Church. And early signs show they are quickly filling up.
"The prices are higher than maybe what some will expect," conceded Ryan Kirkham, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. "But, frankly, I think they'll get 'em."
Downtown Realtor Babs De Lay agrees, saying City Creek, which borders Temple Square, may be immune to the raging recession.
"They're creating an inventory that is absolutely unique," De Lay said, noting more than 40,000 people have expressed interest online. "My guess is they have a lot of cash buyers that really want this location. It's the best opportunity if you live in Salt Lake City."
Described as the portal between Temple Square and the City Creek commercial center, the 10-story Richards Court towers going up at 45 and 55 W. South Temple "define" urban living. Besides the floor-to-ceiling glass that ushers the temple spires or mountain peaks into living rooms, the units offer private balconies or "juliettes," along with a parklike terrace. All are equipped with bathroom marble, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, hardwood flooring, designer lighting and underground parking. Both towers will be ready by the first quarter of 2010.
"Inspiringly modern," the 20-story Regent at 35 E. 100 South touts views of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains and surrounding cityscape -- again through floor-to-ceiling glass. It, too, has top-shelf amenities. And the Web site boasts the Regent, available in 2011, "promises to be as attention-grabbing to look at as it is to live in."
So is the price. A two-bedroom unit with a den ranges from $931,000 to $1.7 million. The price drops roughly in half when you shave a bedroom.
Want a one bedroom with no den? Try $311,000 to $469,000 at the Regent and $480,000 to $629,000 at Richards Court.
Even so, four of the seven penthouses already are taken between the two projects. And 47 units, including the entire sixth floor in the west tower, are claimed in the two-through-nine levels between both Richards buildings.
In each case, the north-side suites with temple views were the first to be snatched.
Smatterings of units also have been reserved on the Regent's mid- and lower levels. But forget the 17th or 18th floors. They are sold out.
"We're encouraged by the interest we've seen so far," said City Creek spokesman Dale Bills, especially given the "unsettled market."
The LDS Church also plans a 30-story residential tower -- on the corner of South Temple and West Temple -- that will be marketed this summer. It is part of the church's overall $1.5 billion-plus rebuild of downtown's north end, expected to be complete in 2012.
In addition to the asking price for the condos, homeowner-association fees are pegged at $300 to $500 a month, according to information sent to potential buyers.
Still, in an informational e-mail, Bills focuses only on housing starting in the high $200,000s. So far, only 759-square-foot studios (for $297,000) fall into that category.
Yet even in the down economy, as residential-retail projects sputter and stall, interest in City Creek condos continues to spike, according to Bill Knowles, ombudsman to the Salt Lake Chamber's Downtown Rising effort. "I know a substantial number of them have been sold."
Kirkham notes the LDS Church's ties to Salt Lake City -- with its campus of sacred edifices and headquarter offices nearby -- allow it to market City Creek housing to people outside of Utah.
"They have a bigger pool of buyers than a normal project," he said. "I'm not that surprised. It's like a lifestyle.
"There are people who have worked their whole lives who will say, 'If we can sell our home and get one of these wonderful places downtown, let's do it.' "
Rick Howa, a downtown developer who has seen his Marmalade live-work vision west of the Capitol hijacked by the credit crunch, agrees. The location is gold, he says. And the high-end design -- both are energy-efficient "green" builds -- warrant a cost Howa calls far from unreasonable.
"By the time that thing's done, they'll be sold out," he said. "I'd bet on it."