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Old Posted Dec 15, 2006, 4:25 AM
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UncleRando UncleRando is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
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Cincinnati: 5th & Race Condo Tower **25 stories** | PRO

5th and Race condos in works
November 29, 2006

CINCINNATI - A piece of prime downtown real estate may soon become the first housing development designed for and specially marketed to young professionals.

The two-acre parcel at Fifth and Race streets - now a parking lot after several attempts to jumpstart development on the site fizzled, including a bid to bring a Nordstrom store to the site in 2000 - will be home to a $100 million condo high-rise that will cater to young professionals, several sources have confirmed.

Western-Southern Financial Group subsidiary Eagle Realty has been working privately on the 15- to 20-story project that would mimic other similar projects around the country that have been successful, a source close to the project said.

The company has held exclusive development rights to the site since about 1994. In August, acting city Manager David Rager gave Eagle 12 months to come up with development plans for the space. He rejected a request by the company to extend development rights on the spot.

City spokeswoman Meg Olberding said officials from Eagle have been talking recently with city economic development officials on plans for the site. The company also filed proposed plans for the site, but she refused to release them, citing the company's claim that the documents included "trade secrets."

But Western-Southern CEO John Barrett recently made a presentation to 50 downtown business leaders about the project.

Stephanie Gaither, who heads up the Cincinnati Equity Fund, a pool of money to help fund downtown projects, said she was aware of the project, but declined to discuss it further.

A source confirmed the structure would include up to 900 underground parking spaces and retail on the first and possibly second floors. One and two-bedroom condos, ranging from 750 to 1,500 square feet, priced from $150,000 to $300,000, would fill out the development. An announcement and construction could begin early next year, the source said.

Cleveland-based KA Architecture Inc. did conceptual drawings for the project, but Atlanta-based Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart, another architectural firm, has been selected to design the structure, another source said.

Developments catered to what some home-building trade organizations dub the "young and restless" crowd have been the rage in many urban markets, appealing to the growing trend of young people who want to live in urban areas and want to buy. The smaller units with commensurately lower prices make them affordable to buyers in that demographic, said Cathy High, spokeswoman for the Novare Group, an Atlanta-based development firm that specializes in that type of development.

"Many of them were raised in the suburbs, but then when they get on their own they want to live in the city," she said.

The developments typically are built near hubs for nightlife, dining and entertainment, and within walking distance of large employment centers, High said.

High's company, and Franklin, Tenn.-based Bristol Development Group, have made serving the young professional market a major part of their business. In their developments, amenities include contemporary layouts in relatively small units that are "efficient and well-designed," High said. They also include club-quality fitness centers, large party rooms (or "second living rooms") and "very robust high-tech features." Among them: elevators that will tell homeowners if they have a package waiting at the concierge when they swipe their key card to gain access to the floor where they live.

Condos are pre-wired for high-speed Internet, surround sound and satellite TV. There are also rooms for watching movies on big-screen TVs, with popcorn machines and large leather recliners with cup holders, plus roof-top swimming pools, outdoor barbecue grills and Internet kiosks, so a resident can quickly check e-mail or read news headlines, High said.

Creating opportunities for social interaction is important, High said. Party rooms are designed as gathering places for people who live in the building, with video game machines, fire pits and a bar that can be used for parties.

The buildings also have high-tech security, including cameras and access cards that will allow residents inside the front door and only to their floor. Later, when residents make friends in the building, their security card can be altered to allow access to other floors, High said.

Ashlyn Hines, a Bristol principal, said it is working on its eighth YP-oriented urban project.

The companies have launched projects in Birmingham, Ala; Tampa, Charlotte and Atlanta.

Another Bristol project, "Icon," a 21-story, 424-unit project in Nashville, is now under construction. In two days, the first lot of 217 condos sold out. Next, 224 condos were gone in eight days.

Despite the success, Hines is hard-pressed to explain why.

"I think convenience is a big part of it," she said. "I think it's a lot cooler to live in an urban area than a suburban area. ... I don't think you can point to a single thing."

High said her company has had similar experiences.

"We've had tremendous success. They all have sold very quickly," she said.

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