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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Thursday, Sep. 16, 2021 10 months ago

Developer finds niche in apartment developments near university and downtown

Chicago developer debuts in Florida with two developments in Tampa's booming North Hyde Park neighborhood.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Kennedy Boulevard, as you neared downtown and the University of Tampa, was the kind of place you wanted to avoid after dark.

This is where serial killer Bobby Joe Long picked up one of his victims and where the mob bar Castaways Lounge was home to what Cigar City Magazine calls a “motley crew of drug dealers and arsonists.”

Today, boutiques, salons, cafes, preschools and a Walmart Neighborhood Market line Kennedy as you head east, skirting Hyde Park. And while the population growth in the area is booming, at times there seem to be as many construction crews as there are residents.

Jumping into that mix is Chicago-based developer Wingspan Development Group.

Wingspan recently started construction on NICHE at North Hyde Park, a 251-unit multifamily complex that will feature more than 80 smart units — dwellings that are small in stature but big in futuristic, space-saving furniture. The company is also building Jade at North Hyde Park, a five-story 193-unit mixed-use building with 3,200-square feet of retail, scheduled to be completed late year.

The two buildings are just blocks apart from one another and are part of a growing number of developments and shops just north of Kennedy in the North Hyde Park neighborhood.

Jason Macklin, director of development for Wingspan, says what made the area attractive to the company is that it's centrally located to the university, downtown, Hyde Park and the Westshore business district.   

“In the markets we operate in, one of the strategies we deploy is identifying sites just outside metro downtowns, where residents can easily commute into downtown, but avoid paying downtown rents,” he says. “It’s a value proposition.”

Wingspan currently operates both apartments and mixed-used developments in Illinois and Wisconsin. Jade and NICHE are its first Florida properties.

NICHE is on West Carmen Street, near West Cass Street and North Boulevard, about a half mile north of Kennedy in an area that’s more industrial than one usually associates with Hyde Park. Still, nearby, are several apartment buildings that have come online in the past couple of years and there is a growing neighborhood feel that won’t take long to reach that end of West Carmen Street.

Jade, on North Willow Avenue, is about three-quarters of a mile west and in a more established part of North Hyde Park.

Construction has begun at NICHE, but so far only a parking garage has been built. The development, which Wingspan is funding through a new $11.7 million fund, is scheduled to open in early 2023.

What will set NICHE apart from other apartment complexes in the area, Macklin says, will be 83 smart apartments with rents expected to start at about $1,000 per month.

“In the markets we operate in, one of the strategies we deploy is identifying sites just outside metro downtowns, where residents can easily commute into downtown, but avoid paying downtown rents.” Jason Macklin, director of development for Wingspan Development Group.

The units are efficiencies, really, but not the kind efficiency you normally think about. The 400-square-foot units will feature robotic furniture from Ori, a New York company. These are pieces controlled by smartphones or Alexa devices that move on rails, allowing residents to get better usage out of the limited amount of space.

Think of them as modern day Murphy beds. But instead of a mattress dropping from a wall, a bed, dresser and desk are built as a single piece that slides from one side of the room to another creating a sense of more space.

“It’s got a cool factor, but it’s also very practical,” Macklin says. The building will also offer community kitchens and co-working space for residents in those units — and others.

Macklin says these units are designed to attract young professionals and students who may not otherwise be able to afford to live in the area.

He says Wingspan will also introduce an access control system at NICHE that it uses in other projects nationwide. In addition to a fob, residents will be able to use their phones to move around the property and that they can share with guests.  

In addition to the efficiencies, NICHE will include 34 studios, 67 one-bedroom apartments, 66 two-bedroom apartments and a single three-bedroom apartment.

“I think the sky’s the limit as long as people keep moving to Florida, and there are new jobs announced in Tampa each week,” Macklin says of Tampa.

“And for us, what we look at when we decide on a market, we look for population growth, job growth and quality of life. Tampa checks all three of those boxes.”

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