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Penthouse perks: Rising rents spark an arms race for amenities in Downtown dwellings

See how your favorite building compares
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Posted at 10:22 AM, Apr 01, 2019

CINCINNATI — Even a dog’s life can be sweet if you’re in the right suite.

When Carla Rose takes her teacup Yorkie Lola out for a walk, there is a pet-washing room and free dog treats awaiting their return to the Encore building at Seventh and Sycamore streets Downtown.

“Lola comes up to the sixth floor sometimes when I’m up here on my laptop,” said Rose. “It’s a very pet-friendly community.”

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Lola, a three-pound teacup Yorkie, tests the pet spa at Envore Urban Living Downtown

And it’s not the only one. Downtown is rapidly adding upscale apartment buildings that court woman and beast alike with special perks, including rooftop decks, lavish party rooms, discount dining offers and concierge service for package delivery and dry cleaning. The amenities race is aimed at cultivating loyalty in a rental market that’s getting downright pricey, with penthouse units easily fetching more than $4,000 a month.

“It’s a service we provide that kind of sets us apart from the rest,” said Christina Hardy, general manager at AT580, a 179-unit apartment community in a converted office building at the corner of Sixth and Walnut. Residents there have access to a rooftop dog park, a 12-seat cinema room and discounts of up to 20 percent at the Prime Cincinnati steakhouse, Wahlburger’s, Mr. Sushi and three other restaurants in the building.

The property’s concierge staff spends up to two hours a day delivering packages and dry cleaning to residents. The building has cultivated a sense of community in which residents watch “The Bachelor” together or take part in apartment-hopping parties where martinis are served in one unit, appetizers in another.

”No one moves unless they’re moving out of state typically,” Hardy said. “We had 15 renewals at the end of March and 12 of them stayed.”

Here's a sample of the amenities available at some of the more expensive properties in downtown Cincinnati, based on information pulled from building websites and Apartments.com.

  • City Club Apartments – Rents from $1,430 to $3,345. Tenants in this 294-unit apartment property have access to 10th floor amenities, including an indoor pool and Skyclub, with a bar and gourmet kitchen. A rooftop restaurant is in the works. Residents get discounts for restaurants, salons, dry cleaning and pet care.
  • The Reserve at Fourth and Race – Rents from $1,540 to $1,895. Fitness center has a personal trainer available. Rooftop terrace has grills, an outdoor bar and community gardens. Concierge and maid service. Complimentary espresso bar.
  • AT580 – Rents from $1,525 to $4,495. Residents in the former 580 Walnut office building have access to a rooftop lounge and dog park plus a 12-seat cinema room. Concierge staff delivers packages and dry cleaning to your unit. Discounts of up to 20 percent offered by the building’s six restaurant tenants, including Prime Cincinnati steakhouse, Mr. Sushi and Wahlburgers.
  • Crane Factory Flats – Rents from $1,685 to $2,755. Residents in the former Hamilton County Board of Elections building have access to a rooftop deck, package-delivery lockers, a bike room, a pet washing station and a 24-hour fitness and yoga facility.
  • St. Xavier Park properties – Rents from $1,645 to $3,695. Tenants at East 8 Lofts, Sycamore Place Lofts, Seven at Broadway and Encore Urban Living use their fingerprints to unlock doors. A 24-hour fitness center streams free workout videos. The Encore has a salt-water pool on the sixth floor party deck with city views and fire pits for non-swimmers.

More upgrades are coming to St. Xavier Park, a cluster of luxury apartment buildings owned by North American Properties and Northpointe Group. A quarter-acre dog park, now under construction, will offer private access to live music, yoga classes and food-truck events for residents of the Encore, East 8 Lofts, Sycamore Place and Seven at Broadway. The buildings, which have a combined 402 apartments, will soon be joined by a 125-unit apartment tower at Eighth and Main.

The new dog park is an attempt to brand the buildings as a neighborhood where people aspire to live.

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Jim Hobson, associate asset manager for North American Properties

“We want to make sure that when they leave they’ve loved where they lived and they’re going to tell their friends,” said Jim Hobson, associate asset manager for North American Properties. “The reality is many people are renting because they know they’re going to be leaving someday. So, retention is great and having loyal customers is great but ultimately we know there’s going to be very few people that are going to be with us for a very long time.”

The amenities trend is evolving nationwide from a concentration of physical spaces – like fitness centers and rooftop decks – to services that help urban dwellers cope with their hectic schedules. A 2018 survey of 1,000 renters by the National Multifamily Housing Council discovered convenience and flexibility are among the most important attributes tenants now seek in rental housing.

“Nine out of 10 survey respondents said convenience was important to them,” said the report. “Eighty-three percent stressed the importance of having space that evolves with different stages of their lives.”

Towne Properties LLC has adopted Luxer One Package Lockers as its ecommerce management method of choice at Roebling Row in Covington and the Gramercy and Lofts and Shillito Place Downtown. Towne maintains a pool at the Gramercy and Downtown’s largest fitness center at Shillito, making both amenities available to all of its apartment tenants near Garfield Park. Other perks include bike storage, free coffee and a newly refurbished yoga room.

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” said Towne Properties principal Arn Bortz. “We’ve got so much new supply in the marketplace. The way you set yourself apart as a landlord is amenities.”

North American Properties is testing several new convenience amenities, including a pair of Procter & Gamble Co. offerings specifically geared to apartment dwellers. Tide Cleaners will install drop-off stations in all St. Xavier Park buildings, part of a national expansion aimed at establishing 2,000 new laundry and dry-cleaning outlets by 2020. P&G is also installing pantries in the laundry rooms of each building, where tenants can purchase cleaning supplies on a 24/7 basis.

The new building at 8th and Main will use Parcel Pending for package delivery, a service that will park online orders in various-sized lockers and refrigerated storage for groceries. Once delivered, residents will get a text message with a temporary code that allows them to access their order.

“Really great timing with the downtown Kroger coming on line here this year,” Hobson said. “We envision a lot of people will be doing their grocery shopping differently, doing it online and we want to be able to accommodate that.”

Technology tools are also a differentiator for St. Xavier Park dwellings. A biometric scanner lets residents enter with their fingerprint and use their mobile phones to change the thermostat, turn off lights or unlock the front door.

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Maggie Hobbs, property manager at St Xavier Park apartment community Downtown

“It’s so convenient for the residents and for the on-site teams, the fact that they can buzz in their guests from their cell phones without ever having to come to us or worry if we’re open or not,” said Property Manager Maggie Hobbs. “That’s a huge perk for our residents.”

Ninth-floor tenant Carla Rose thinks such perks will become standard in the Downtown rental market. She has a unique perspective as both a resident and leasing agent for North American Properties.

“Everyone is kind of expecting it with an A-Class property, just having the access to a package locker or the convenience of unlocking your door with your mobile phone,” she said. “They’ll also ask about amenities: Fitness center, pool, community space.”

But it’s benefits like the new dog park, scheduled to open in May, that really gets Rose enthused about her next assignment: Filling up the yet-to-be built units at 8th and Main.

“Just having the ability to go over and hang out on my laptop or grill out with friends while knowing my dog is safe inside a restricted pet area off leash,” she said. “It’s the complete package.”