Highpoint Apartments Expect First Residents in October
Columbus Commons has been home to many great events since it first opened, and starting next month it will become home to its initial slate of residents. The developers of Highpoint on Columbus Commons say that the first building will be ready for renters to start moving in by late October with 20% of units already pre-leased.
We had a chance to sit down with Carter President R. Scott Taylor, Jr. a few weeks ago for an update on the project. Our full interview can be found below:
Walker Evans: To start, can you give us a bit of a project update and overview on Highpoint?
Scott Taylor: We are on budget and on schedule to deliver our northern building, which consists of 98 units, in late October. The Southern building will deliver in either late December or the first part of next year. From a budget and a schedule standpoint, which is always very important to us; we are on target. We’re right under 20% leased at this point, so we’ve seen good interest in the project. We’re right where we thought we would be, just relative to the demand. In terms of our lease rates and level of interest, everything is clearly on target from that standpoint.
In terms of milestones, we wanted to get as much of the parkside facade up as we could this summer; given all of the programming that’s going on in the park. Capitol South was very focused on that. The next significant milestone is the opening ceremony of the President’s Cup, which will be October 2nd. We really want to make sure that the parkside elevation is as complete as possible. So that has as finished a look as it possibly can for that really important event. So, so far, so good. We’re still not where we need to be, but we’re excited about where we are right now.
WE: We haven’t heard any retail announcements yet. Are discussions regarding that going well?
ST: Yes. We have 23,000 square-feet of retail space, and our signature two retail locations flank the arcade leading into Columbus Commons from High Street. We hope to get signature restaurants there that can both have a really cool indoor dining experience and an outdoor patio and balcony overlooking and connecting with the park. We’re receiving good interest, but we don’t have any leases to announce yet. We’re beginning to tour our prospective users of the space on a regular basis, so we’re cautiously optimistic that they’re going to be well-received.
This area is evolving so nicely. Consider the environment of MoJoe Lounge where we’re sitting right now. We love this energy, and the vibe. Same with deNOVO. The professionals are here on a day-to-day basis during the day, and then the more residential density that we can add in the evening, as well as from some of the other announced projects that are coming; we think that will bode well for retail in general. We typically don’t lead with retail in the urban core. Retail follows residents. So that’s why getting the residents in here first is really important.
WE: Is that how it’s worked with other projects, like The Banks in Cincinnati?
ST: Yes, though The Banks was a little different in that there’s a lot more retail there — about 80,000 square-feet — and that project has much of more an entertainment focus. We’re playing off the two assets of Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ballpark. So the sports bars and that sort of environment really dictated bigger users and that sort of thing. At Highpoint we wanted the buildings to feel like they were here before High Street was here. Classic, elegant and traditional — something that feels like it fits into the urban core. So we want retail that supports that, and can be very integral to the fabric of the neighborhood and the community. We’d love to hear from your audience about what they’d like to see here as well. That’s important to us. We’d like to respond to what the community would like to see. We don’t have all of the answers by any stretch, but if we can respond to the demands and needs of what everybody in Downtown Columbus would like to see, we’d love that.
WE: I have heard from some folks there is a bit of concern with an oversaturation on the restaurant side of retail. It seems like that’s generally the easier type of retail to find and locate in an urban core. The thing I keep hearing people pushing for and requesting is the harder to find smaller retail boutiques… clothing stores, shoe shops and home goods.
ST: We’re pursuing all of those. The holy grail is the corner market. The small, urban, grocer. That model is changing a little, but you really need density to support it. If you speak to the Gen Y demographic trend,they want an urban experience where they live. They want to walk down to the market and they want to walk to where they work. We want to be responsive to that, and we want to be respectful of that. But by the same token, we still need the economics to work.
WE: You said you’ve hit around the 20% mark with the preleasing. What’s the demographic breakdown of your tenants thus far — Millennials? Baby Boomers?
ST: I’d say it’s been half and half. In the 18-30 range we’ve signed 30 leases. In the 31-40, 10 leases. And in the 51-60 range, we’ve signed 16. So definitely a little bit stronger in the Gen Y category, but we’re still capturing that empty nester demographic as well. We want to be very sensitive to the interests and needs and demands of both of those respective user groups. We have 28 floor plans within the project, so when you go from the studio all of the way up to the townhome, I’d like to think that we’ll be able to respond to all of those user groups. I don’t know if it will end up being a 50/50 split. I think there will probably be a little bit more of the younger professional set, but by the same token, I think that the product will be well-received by empty nesters as well.
WE: From the demographic studies I’ve read, it sounds like those groups generally want the same amenities anyway… walkable neighborhoods with proximity to restaurants, dry cleaners, parks, events, etc.
ST: All of the cool things that you’ve been following that are occurring in Downtown Columbus, are also happening in other urban communities around the United States. What’s so cool is to see it happen here with all of the various components that people just want to see in their life. Culture, recreation, retail, amenities, housing. We think the re-urbanization that’s occurring across the country, and is occurring right here in Columbus, is a byproduct of great political leadership, supported by strong business cooperation and leadership. Private sector investment follows public sector investment. We’ve seen a fair amount of public sector dollars invested in the urban core, and we think that will only bode well for more mixed-use projects like this one.
WE: One thing that some of our readers have taken issue with is the architectural design of the Highpoint project. Especially now that there’s been some additional high-profit projects announced nearby, including the Meleca-designed LC building and the Kaufman-Daimler building. Are you happy with the way The Highpoint’s design has turned out, or received any other type of feedback on the design?
ST: CDDC and Capitol South were very interested in a classic, elegant design for this part of Columbus Commons, so we thought it would be well-received by a wide demographic set. We thought that it fit nicely on High Street. If you go all of the way up to Ohio State, and the Short North, there is a rich architectural tapestry. There are classic designs, the Convention Center, the Hilton, everything in the Arena District, and the new modern Daimler building to the south.
When you look at cool urban landscapes like Chicago or New York, you’ve got a similar diversity of architectural interests. And we think that’s great. It fits. Architecture is very personal, and it’s very subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to have diversity in style is great.
And we absolutely love the Daimler project. We love the fact that it’s such an incredibly successful group that is going to be putting their stake over there, we love the fact that it’s mixes of use, it’s offices, it’s residential, it’s retail. It’s an innovative concept, it’s a cool development scheme and we think it will be great for Downtown.
WE: You mentioned earlier the idea that private development follows public development dollars. Do you see additional interest from Carter in projects in Columbus, either in the core of Downtown or other urban neighborhoods?
ST: Without a doubt. But you can’t do your second or third project unless your first is successful. We are beyond committed to seeing our first phase be very very successful, both for ourselves and our investors.
That being said, we are constantly looking for new opportunities and we think what Mayor Coleman, Capitol South, CDDC, and the Columbus Partnership are trying to do in Downtown is visionary. We are going to follow the Scioto Peninsula plans very carefully. They are contemplating 1,200 residential units there and two hundred thousand square feet of retail and commercial. I think the plans for the new Veteran’s Memorial and the extension of the Columbus Zoo are really exciting. So to the extent that the timing is right and we can pursue a project in one of those developments or somewhere in between, we’re going to be watching that closely.
Our hope is that we can be a valued member of the community. We want to always do the right thing, and we want to be very thoughtful of development trends. If the opportunity pops up at the right time, we’d love to pursue it.
WE: Thanks Scott! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ST: I think the part about the community is really important because we think there’s some really great momentum in Downtown and given the fact that this is our first project here, we’d love for this to be something that the community embraces. Any and all feedback we can get is welcomed. We understand that projects like this don’t work unless they work for everyone. That’s why the collaboration between your elected officials, the business community, your residents, your merchants — it’s got to be a collaborative effort. So we welcome that and we’d love to be a part of it.
More information can be found online at www.highpointcolumbus.com.
Photos by Walker Evans.