Monday, April 22, 2002

Developer offers incentives to fill Roebling Row complex

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — When Towne Properties started a waiting list for its Roebling Row apartments last summer, developers predicted the historic-looking complex would be fully leased by this month.

        Instead, largely because of a faltering economy, only about 25 percent of the apartments are leased.

        So Mount Auburn-based Towne Properties is offering a slew of incentives.

        Since August, Towne has twice dropped its monthly Roebling Row rents, and offers 13 months for the price of 12.

        Originally set at $1,200 to $1,800, rents on the 86 apartments now start at $775 per month for a one-bedroom apartment with up to 999 square feet. Two-bedroom units with 1,200 square feet are as low as $995 a month.

        Other incentives: free washers and dryers and a $500 entertainment package ranging from restaurant gift certificates to symphony and ballet tickets.

        Throughout Greater Cincinnati, apartment vacancies climbed to 11.9 percent last year, one of the highest rates anyone can remember.

        This year, that number has improved somewhat, to 9.5 percent, according to CB Richard Ellis, a Cincinnati-based commercial real estate brokerage and property management services company.

        “I think we've hit bottom, and are beginning to come back,” said Arn Bortz, a Towne Properties partner.

        Towne also has four apartment buildings in downtown Cincinnati.

        “We know that long-term, Roebling Row is a very good place to be,” said Mr. Bortz. “Thanks to the Covington civic leadership and SouthBank Partners and the sense of cooperation, we have the beginnings of a critical mass of good things in that neighborhood — restaurants, a concentration of employment in the RiverCenter towers, accommodations for overnight guests (in riverfront hotels) and convenience to downtown Cincinnati.”

        With the recent economic downturn, companies that had transferred workers to this area in the past were downsizing. High-end apartments also were hard-hit because prospective tenants worried about the future of their jobs were wary of committing to higher rents, Mr. Bortz said.

        “It's also in a location where people aren't used to finding high-end properties,” Mr. Bortz said of Roebling Row. “That's been a bit of a learning curve as well.”

        Joyce and Dick Graeter said they chose Roebling Row mainly because of its location in a historic riverfront neighborhood close to downtown Cincinnati and numer ous attractions.

        Their corner apartment — only seven minutes from Mr. Graeter's job with the fourth-generation family ice cream business — offers a view of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, Paul Brown Stadium and much of Covington's riverfront development.

        The Graeters had talked about leasing an apartment close to downtown when they purchased a traditional country home at Ryland Lakes in southern Kenton County 20 years ago.

        When they saw Roebling Row being built last year, Mrs. Graeter said that she and her husband knew it was for them.

        “It's just a fun place to be in the middle of everything,” she said.

        Covington City Commissioner Jerry Bamberger predicted Roebling Row will be “a tremendous development,” once the economy bounces back.


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