Final Eagle & Phenix structures under construction

$6.9 million in work begins on Mill No. 1, machine shop

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comMay 27, 2013 

The final piece of the Eagle & Phenix rehabilitation is now under way, with the W.C. Bradley Co. starting work on the five-story building known as Mill No. 1 and a three-story former machine shop.

"They're going to be upscale apartments similar to Mill 2, ranging from 800 square feet to almost 2,000 square feet," said Mat Swift, president of Columbus-based W.C. Bradley's real estate division.

The last phase, which comes with a price tag of about $6.9 million, according to Columbus building permits, should be completed by spring of next year, said Swift, who confirmed there is a waiting list for people wanting to lease one of the 29 apartments in Mill No. 1 and one of the three in the former textile mill's machine shop building.

Already having been converted to apartments is Mill No. 2, located next to the 13th Street bridge. It has 44 units, while the two-story administration building has 14. They both are full, with Swift saying rents in the complex are roughly $1 per square foot. Thus, an 800-square-foot apartment would fetch $800 per month, while the 2,000-square-footers would bring $2,000.

"We've got people who have already said that once we finish these apartments they would like to move in," Swift said. "The apartments that have river views are more valuable and more demanded than apartments that don't have river views."

W.C. Bradley Co. is transforming the mid-1800s-era red-brick mill on Front Avenue into a mixed-use complex that centers around condominiums and apartments. The $50 million project was launched in 2004, with 83 condos being retrofitted into what is known as Mill No. 3 -- the massive structure closest to the water tower. There are 10 units remaining for sale.

"It has been successful in that the people who bought their units have maintained their value," Swift said of the condos. "We've had seven or eight resales and every one of the resales have been either at what they paid for or more. So we think it's created a value."

The real-estate executive said his company would have loved to have sold and leased out all of its property by now. But the Great Recession slowed the pace. Still, a decision was made during the national economic downturn not to cut prices dramatically, particularly on the condo sales, as other real-estate developers did at the recession's peak.

"We decided not to do that," he said. "We decided to keep our prices and hold our values because we believe in the long run that benefits the community. In fact, it proved to be an accurate strategy because today we're maintaining and doing better with our values than other projects where they sliced them."

With the bulk of construction on the living spaces at the Eagle & Phenix wrapping up in the coming months, the focus will turn more intently toward the commercial space in and around Mill No. 3.

Columbus Chef Jamie Keating opened a fine-dining restaurant called Epic in a portion of the mill's ground floor just over a year ago. Keating, who also operates River Mill Event Centre north of downtown, could not be reached for comment.

Swift confirmed he is looking for an eatery that offers more affordable cuisine, with some retail in the mix. He would like to land a gourmet supermarket in the first-floor space facing Front Avenue.

"Whether it be Jamie or someone else, it would probably be the latter part of next year before that would happen," said Swift of a new restaurant or three. Last week, he was shopping the old powerhouse structures looming over the Chattahoochee River to restaurant prospects from Atlanta.

"The lower powerhouse could be the restaurant and maybe the upper powerhouse could be an oyster bar, for example, or private dining, or it could be used in any number of ways," said Swift, who thinks a lawn created next to the north powerhouse will likely be an attractive place for weddings, small parties and other events.

"We just think it's a real neat venue to be able to walk out on the grass and look down on the whitewater rafts and kayaking," he said.

Long term, W.C. Bradley plans to wait five years on the apartments it is now leasing to turn them into condos for sale. That's the period of time required for the company to capture all of the tax credits it received for the project. But there's no doubt the 90 apartments at some point will be on the condo market.

"That's clearly our intent," Swift said, "because one of the things we think is making uptown so vibrant is people want to own their own home down here and plant their feet and live here. That gives you sustainability over the long term from an urban development standpoint."

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