Hot Aqua: Newport's newest apartments show the region's near-downtown trend is far from ebbing

'We didn't anticipate it filling up so quickly'

NEWPORT, Ky. -- For anyone who thought there were too many high-end apartments near Downtown, be aware: Aqua, the newest ones at Newport on the Levee, are filling up -- and fast.

The complex has leased the first 70 apartments in phase one ahead of schedule, said David Bastos, developer and a partner at Capital Investment Group Inc. in Cincinnati. Most are being rented to young professionals, he said, and about 35 percent of the apartments were occupied as of Friday.

“It’s beating expectations,” said Bastos. “We didn’t anticipate it filling up so quickly.”

Phase two has also begun leasing and should open for occupancy this week, and phase three will open for occupancy in November, he said.

The kitchen area of a model apartment at Aqua on Newport on the Levee.

Aqua is part of an $80 million expansion of Newport on the Levee that includes 238 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and the Aloft Hotel, a high-end hotel from Louisville-based Musselman Hotels, with 144 rooms and suites.

Aloft should open in late December or early January, according to a company spokesperson.

About 60 percent of Aqua are one bedrooms with rental rates from $1,200 to $1,800 per month, said Bastos. Two- and three-bedrooms lease from $1,900 to about $2,800.

“In comparison to our competition, we’re not the highest priced,” said Bastos. But the view and amenities are comparable -- Aqua has Downtown views, a gym, a pool and close proximity to restaurants and entertainment, along with easy access to Downtown over the Taylor-Southgate Bridge.

Don Murphy, senior vice president at Cushman & Wakefield in Cincinnati, said it’s important to look at the price per square foot per month, noting that Aqua rates are closer to a $2 average while The Banks are $2.15 to $2.25 per square foot.

“Rents are jumping up, but there is still a demand for the $1,200 to $2,000 price point,” he said.

A bedroom in a model apartment at Aqua, the newest apartments at Newport on the Levee.

Renters in this range are mostly millennials, Murphy said, but they are also attracting empty-nesters. Income likely needs to be over $50,000 annually but with the big companies Downtown, that is doable, he added.

“We’re seeing all different kinds of trends,” Murphy said. “People are not buying a car. They’re taking the bus or walking. … They’re not spending as much time in their apartments, but hanging out in the common areas and the gym.”

Developers still see a need for more apartments with amenities, he said.

Aqua and Aloft sit on the former parking lot that was to the east of the movie theater. It has 800 underground parking spaces with 150 dedicated to the hotel and 350 for Newport on the Levee visitors, Bastos said. The remaining spots are for Aqua.

Capital Investment Group also developed other projects in Newport, including VUE 180, which it sold about two years ago, according to Bastos; and the Southshore condominium high-rise. Both are to the east of the levee. 

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