The first piece of a major construction project that promises to change the riverfront in downtown Columbus has taken shape just a few feet north of the 13th Street bridge.
The Rapids, a 226-unit apartment complex with more than 300 parking spaces, will also feature restaurant and retail space adjacent to the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. It hopes to have the first residents move in during the spring of next year, said Pace Halter, president of the Real Estate Division of the W.C. Bradley Company.
The Bradley Company announced the project in early 2017 and began construction on the first phase about a year ago.
Brasfield & Gorrie, the Birmingham, Ala., based contractor with an office in Columbus, has four completion dates on the nearly $52 million project. The building is being done in quadrants and the first apartment units will be turned over to W.C. Bradley in late February. The other three completion dates will be staggered every four to six weeks after the first piece is finished, Halter said.
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“It is on schedule or a little ahead,” Halter said.
The Bradley Company plans to open a leasing office in late September or early October and begin working through a list of 180 potential residents who have expressed interested in living in the new building, Halter said.
The apartment rents will range from about $900 per month for a small efficiency apartment to about $2,500 monthly for the larger units with the best views of the river and downtown, Halter said. Final pricing has not been set yet.
A recent tour of the building showed a number of units that will have scenic views of the Chattahoochee River and the rapids that are along that stretch. It will make the pricing of the apartments a unit-by-unit process.
“We will literally go through each unit when we are pricing it,” Halter said.
The most expensive units will be the ones with the best views, along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk and on the north and south ends looking up and down the river. There are a handful of ground-floor units that will be just off the riverwalk.
The new apartment building will be just north of the Eagle & Phenix complex where The Bradley Company has 90-apartments and developed an 83-unit condominium building in the historic textile mill structures. The Bradley Company also owns 11th Street Lofts, a 46-unit downtown apartment complex less than two blocks to the south.
All of the company’s current apartments are rented, Halter said. That will help in marketing and pricing the new units, he said.
“Certainly it gives us an advantage from a pricing standpoint, and really what I mean is the understanding of the market,” he said. “With that history, we have an understanding of who the market is, who the tenants are, and what that price is going to actually look like. That said, this building is obviously entirely different. There’s a swimming pool and the floor plans are entirely different.”
Who is the market for these units?
“There’s no one market,” he said. “There’s 226 units, and they range from size and price points across the spectrum, so there is no easy way to answer that question. We’ll have students, we’ll have military, we’ll have (downtown business people). We’ll have quite the spectrum.”
Halter suspects some tenants will move from the other buildings into the new complex, but he is not concerned that will cause an issue.
“At Eagle & Phenix, we’ve been blessed,” Halter said. “It tends to stay fairly full, so I don’t have a lot of concern. While they may move over here, we should not have a lot of trouble back-filling those units.”
The building will feature premier restaurant space on the building’s northwest corner, just off the riverwalk. No restaurateur has been signed, Halter said. Finding the right fit is important, he said.
“It’s a blend, and I’m not trying to dodge your question,” he said when about the possibilities for the space, which will have an outdoor dining area overlooking the riverwalk. It will be the first public dining area on the riverwalk and getting it right is important, Halter said.
“It’s important for us that it’s approachable, so you’re comfortable coming off the river walk in a pair of shorts and tennis shoes, and grabbing something to eat or something to drink, but also you may drive over from Green Island or Midtown to come to have dinner,” he said. “It’s probably not to the level of an Epic, but it’s not fast food either. It’s somewhere in between.”
There is also a small public space being built by The Bradley Company that will eventually connect the riverwalk to Broadway, cutting through the middle of the more than 7-acre site that is being developed.
Reynold Bickerstaff is the chairman of the board of Uptown Columbus, Inc., a non-profit downtown development organization, as well as the co-owner and chief experience officer of Bickerstaff Parham, a local real estate company. He views The Rapids and the planned office and retail development that will take place around it from a couple of perspectives.
“It’s always great to see that type of activity,” Bickerstaff said. “That was once a very active site with the mill and when they removed the structures, it became inactive. What this activation will do is create connectivity. It fits in so well with the riverwalk and will connect with the 14th Street pedestrian bridge and TSYS. Eventually it will connect everything to Broadway.”
It is great space, Bickerstaff said.
“This is the highest and best use for current needs and future needs,” Bickerstaff said. “It could spur 400 to 500 new residential units downtown over the next four or five years. And I believe we are at a point where we can support that.”
CORRECTION: The number of apartments W.C. Bradley Company has in the Eagle & Phenix complex is 90.