Planning and Foresight

Growth, collaboration and tech savvy define St. Claude Avenue-based real estate broker Urban Vision’s trajectory
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The Urban Vision offices are housed in a circa-1913 building that — according to architects with whom owner MJ Sauer met — was possibly built as a Sears and Roebuck kit home. A neighbor told Sauer the building was “originally a boarding house for African American longshoremen.”

We wanted our office to feel very homey, so we utilized home furnishings and custom-built pieces.”
MJ Sauer of Urban Vision, owner of the building and co-broker of Keller Williams New Orleans

In November 2019, boutique real estate broker Urban Vision moved from its offices on Ulloa Street to a space on St. Claude Avenue. The brokerage originally opened in 2007 and was housed above the Mid-City Yacht Club, of which owner and co-broker MJ Sauer is a co-owner.

“It was convenient at the time so I could help run the bar,” said Sauer. “As we outgrew the space, and the bar also needed more space, we acquired 4025 Ulloa Street and did a complete post-Katrina gut job renovation. We eventually found this gem of a building on St. Claude that hadn’t been occupied since Hurricane Katrina. It had such good bones and historic beauty, and with the commercial (enterprise) going, we set our sights on that as our future office.”

The circa-1913 building is 3,000 square feet and, according to architects Sauer met with, is possibly a Sears and Roebuck kit home. Neighbor Charmaine Neville told Sauer it was “originally a boarding house for African American longshoremen run by an African American woman who ran a tight ship and had strict curfews.”

Sauer recently took time out to share some of the details of the design and the brokerage business, which in January 2020 joined forces with Keller Williams New Orleans. (Some answers may have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

What were your goals for the overall design concept and why? 
The design goals were to keep it simple and retain as much of the original character as possible. We didn’t move any walls, with the exception of reworking the extra-large bathroom to a smaller bathroom and two closets. The hardwood floors are simply stunning, and we left them a natural color with a simple satin coat. We wanted our office to feel very homey, so we utilized home furnishings and custom-built pieces.

What were the biggest design challenges and how were they overcome? 
The building challenged us to imagine how a 100-plus-year-old kit home could become a versatile space that Realtors — and a yet-to-be-known tenant downstairs — could occupy while serving the community. Ultimately, we renovated the place and then found a wonderful tenant in Zuri Nelson, who owns and operates Botanicals NOLA, a healthy supplement and smoothie shop. He is a wonderful partner to have in the building and it is such a nice addition to the neighborhood to have a healthy option.

What are the standout features? 
The building is really unique. I love the large rooms — that probably worked well for the original purpose of a boarding house — but the historic exterior is the real charm. The inviting front porch is perfect for a New Orleans day and the curved balcony with shake siding adds such intrigue by changing the texture and adding the curve.

How would you describe your company’s mission and its core audience? 
Urban Vision is a boutique real estate firm. [In] January 2020, just after moving into our new location, we joined forces with Keller Williams New Orleans in an effort to maintain our high level of customer service and couple it with the world class training and technology offered by Keller Williams. Our business is rapidly changing and becoming very tech driven. Keller Williams New Orleans has the vision to stay many steps ahead and allow us to be tech-enabled agents to better serve our clients. Our mission is to build to build careers worth having, lives worth living, experiences worth giving and legacies worth leaving. Our core audience is entrepreneurs who want to build a real estate business and anyone who wants to buy or sell real estate and wants to work with a tech-enabled agent who was trained and operates on the best technology platform in the business.

How do you set yourselves apart from entities doing similar work in New Orleans? 
Our associates are entrepreneurs at their core and build their own real estate business to serve our diverse community. The combination of a New Orleans entrepreneur supported by the Keller Williams New Orleans technology, training and regulatory platform allows our associates’ clients to have the best customer experience and find deals faster.

How do you promote a positive work atmosphere? 
Our culture is one of sharing knowledge and helping people grow through training and collaboration. At Keller Williams New Orleans we have created a culture where everyone wins through equitable treatment. We are a diverse company with over 120 associates. We are always working to ensure our brokerage looks like the community it serves.

What are your biggest business challenges?
To get the word out about who we really are. Keller Williams is sometime seen as a corporate entity, but we are a local company owned by lifelong New Orleanians who celebrate inclusion and diversity. There is power behind the international Keller Williams brand that benefits our agents and clients — including an international marketing and referral network — but ultimately, we are your neighbors and will hold your hand through the complex process of buying or selling a home from start to finish. The combination of locally owned and operated and the power of the largest real estate brokerage in the world is an incredible advantage for our associates and their clients.

What goals are you looking to meet in the next 12 months?
We know that owning a home is the single greatest path to wealth in this country so the more families our associates can serve and help realize that dream, the better off this city will be.

 

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Workspaces 03

“The hardwood floors are simply stunning, and we left them a natural color with a simple satin coat,” says Sauer, who collaborated on the interior design with her partners. Sauer said she was drawn to the space by its large rooms, inviting front porch and curved balcony with shake siding.

At a Glance
Location
3726 St. Claude Ave.
Date building was built
1913
Square footage
3,000 square feet
Renovation date
2015 to 2019
Move in date
November 2019
Person in Charge
MJ Sauer, owner of the building and co-broker of Keller Williams New Orleans
Buildout Contractor
Elbert Weinberger of Associated Housing Contractors
Interior Designer
MJ Sauer; real estate business partner James Howell; Howell’s partner Todd Breckman; and Ed Horan.
Furnishings and Art
Conference table built by Jason McDonald; period lighting sourced from eBay (from as far as away as Germany), plus some modern lighting from West Elm; local art including works by Alex Hafner and Michelle Andre, mixed in with maps