There are the business-school business models.
Then there’s the “look out the window as you drive down the street,” practical approach to business.
An approach that says, “If you see a really under-served niche, fill the void.”
Which is what Gant Hill and Ashley Blacketer are doing with Flats on Frankfort.
The north end of Frankfort Avenue, with its offering of restaurants, including North End Cafe, Varanese and The Silver Dollar, is an increasingly hot social destination. Which translates into more people wanting to live there.
Problem is, Hill said, apartment choices in that part of Clifton for young professional couples or singles boils down to old, dated and neglected.
“People are just not getting what they want. The old 2,700-square-foot house chopped up into apartments isn’t cutting it.”
So last summer, he and Blacketer bought what had been a decrepit apartment building at 1911 Frankfort Ave. – at Frankfort and Haldeman, two blocks north of the Silver Dollar at Frankfort and Pope – and set about turning the 40-unit property into well-appointed, single-bedroom apartment complex aimed mostly at the young professional/grad school demographic.
Hill and Blacketer bought the Clifton Arms, a drab 1960s-era complex – two, 2-story buildings – last June for $1.36 million, according to Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator records.
The business partners have invested about another $1 million into Flats on Frankfort, Hill said.
The result is apartments fall under the rubric of “less is more … especially when it includes more of what consumers actually want.”
Each has a limited amount of living space, about 550 square feet.
But each has a lot packed into the three-room studios, which are packed with high-end amenities, aimed at busy people who essentially need an inviting place close to the central business district to sleep and unwind.
“It’s a comfortable place to come home to because most are deeply involved in careers,” he said.
To compensate for space, the partners included advanced heat/AC units, slate counter tops, high-end cabinetry, hardwood floors, upgraded lighting and high-end appliances in the makeover. Rents range from $675 to $725 per month.
“We want amenities that are low-maintenance,” Blacketer said. “The counter tops had to be scratch resistant. We wanted everything to be high quality. We wanted to free up internal space.
“We really did put a lot of thought and planning into this.”
With Miami-based Carlos Perez as general contractor, the project is running ahead of schedule, Hill said, with all 40 units completed, with 20 leased.
“This (project) has exceeded expectations,” he said. “We’re already close to cash-flow positive. We think that tells you how strong the (apartment) demand is in the area.”
The deal was self-financed, Hill said. “It helps we didn’t have to use bank. We’d love to find more properties to do this with, especially in the Frankfort Avenue area. This is not a market that is served as well as it should be. This is our stomping ground.
“We want to see it thrive.”