Having It Both Ways

What happens when an older suburban apartment community adds urban-inspired upgrades?

More often than not, residents end up with many of the pluses of new intown properties –and the affordability and ease of established neighborhoods farther from the downtown core.

“What we’re seeing,” says13 After’s VP of Operations Tazha Layman, “is that this trend is creating an environment where the renter benefits from a larger selection of modernized communities that still fall well within their ideal price point.”

Upgrades may start inside the units with new appliances, new kitchen cabinetry, new carpeting, and new finishes throughout, or on the grounds with new landscaping and better lighting.

But it’s the added or refurbished amenities that can really amp up the “wow” factor, like saltwater pools, outdoor lounges with fire pits, fitness centers available 24/7, immersive gaming centers, or coffee bars in the business center.

Savvy suburban communities are taking a page from the urban developer’s playbook. Many of the features that new properties incorporate to attract millennials — greenspace, bike paths, lots of technology — are appealing to other groups, too, Layman says, like downsizers and DINKs (double-income, no kids); and they are just as sought-after away from the main urban center.

“We go into properties that have not been given much TLC and execute substantial capital improvements,” says Colby Robertson, Director of Elite Travelers for RADCO Residential, the proprietary management platform for The RADCO Companies, which currently owns and manages some 17,000 apartment units across 10 states.

“Our value-added program resets the economic clock on B-Class vintage communities,” he says.

On the day RADCO acquires a property, the company assumes management, rebrands the community and starts in on the capital projects. “We want to send a clear message,” Robertson says, “and let residents and prospective residents see that changes are coming.”

The company quickly gets to work on amenity upgrades – putting an Internet Café in the business center, for instance, or putting new equipment in the fitness center. “Most apartments have swimming pools and clubhouses,” he says, “so RADCO utilizes its in-house design team to reimagine the space and elevate the atmosphere.”

At the recently acquired Radius Mountain Creek community in Chattanooga, where residents are very outdoors-oriented, RADCO is looking into adding a rock-climbing feature.

At Spalding Bridge, a suburban Atlanta location, two gas fire pits and two gas grills were added to the outdoor space. “It’s a great neighborhood,” Robertson says. “We saw that a lot of residents like to be outdoors with friends and family, riding bikes, or walking dogs.”

Sometimes a good suburban location can become a great one, when there is significant new development nearby.

Case in point: RADCO’s Ashford 75 property, near the site of the new Atlanta Braves SunTrust Stadium in Cobb County. It is benefitting from all the new growth, including retail and restaurants, that will be super-convenient to residents. Robertson says the company has put significant resources into modernizing the community.

“We are able to offer lifestyle and affordability just 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta.

You don’t have to live intown to enjoy intown benefits,” he says.

You really can have it both ways.

— Susan Percy, 13 After Contributing Editor