Rendering of new apartment rentals coming to Norton Commons
Rendering of new apartments planned for Norton Commons

Everybody, it seems, is suddenly paying attention to the bustling residential rental business here in Louisville. And that will soon include Norton Commons.

The successful planned community – 10 years after turning its first shovelful of dirt, nine years after selling its first home – is planning a luxury rental apartment complex to fit into its 200 completed acres of private residences, condominiums, town homes and storefronts.

“Fit in” is the operative term. “We drafted a very specific set of deed restrictions,” says Marilyn Osborn Patterson, general counsel and marketing director of Norton Commons LLC. “We wanted to make sure the new development retains the overall look and quality of the rest of Norton Commons, not only the architecture but also the feel for green space and all the quality-of-life elements we care about.”

The developer of the property, Bristol Development Group (Franklin, Tenn.), sat down with Norton Commons architect Mike Watkins to establish a plan that makes the complex seamless within the community in almost all ways.

Portions of the plan include seemingly minor details, like the way the columns align with the roof structure, the way the windows are detailed and framed, the pitch of the roof, the types of materials used. “They’re details the casual consumer wouldn’t notice,” said Bristol CEO Charles Carlisle, “but they’re the kinds of things that would be noticeable if they didn’t match.”

The property, to be called Veranda at Norton Commons, occupies 10.5 acres in the southern-most part of the village, bordering I-71. It will be a series of three-story apartment homes, ranging from one to three bedrooms, some on one floor, some duplex town homes, some with attached garages.

Floor plans are not yet available, but Patterson said the range in size is 690 to 1,500 square feet, and the range in rent is about $950 to $1,850 a month. The units have hard-surface flooring, stainless steel appliances, upscale lighting and plumbing fixtures, granite countertops. “The kind of quality you’d find in single-family homes,” Bristol’s Carlisle said. “Something that would appeal, for example, to empty-nesters who are downsizing from the private homes they’ve owned.”

Rendering of the clubhouse
Rendering of the clubhouse

In other words, “luxury,” which is in keeping with the upper-end-of-the-market work Bristol has done throughout seven Southeastern states. The property will have its own swimming pool, fitness center, clubhouse, pet-grooming facility, activities lawn, and space for streetfront retail.

This will be Bristol’s first Kentucky venture. But not its last. Carlisle told me the company is planning a new, smaller development “in the near-in urban market” close to the core of Louisville.

It will be what he called an “urban in-fill development,” a smaller parcel of land with a building that is no longer viable. He wasn’t ready to tell me where that will be, but promised to share with Insider Louisville as soon as he could.

Carlisle was drawn to Norton Commons partly because of the promising potential of the local rental market, but also because of its “new urbanist” characteristics, a model of streets, sidewalks, lampposts, alleys and storefronts pioneered as long ago as the 1980s by the Miami company Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. (DPZ) that designed Norton Commons.

“They’re the preeminent firm in this new urbanist movement,” says Carlisle, who lives in exactly such a DPZ community in Tennessee.

“We seek out different locations with what we call lasting values,” he says. “And a community like Norton Commons, with its expensive building elements – open space, landscaping, parks, pools, front and the architectural values of the house – creates unique community experiences.”

It is, he says, an attempt to replicate those early 20th century neighborhoods that had such a great community feel but tended to disappear during the 1950s suburban planning movement.

The deal was closed in November, and construction began in December. The first foundations have been laid and many of the buildings have been framed. Preliminary rental activity has begun on the property’s website, verandanortoncommons.com. The expectation is that some of the units will be occupancy-ready in the fourth quarter of 2014, the rest by spring 2015.

So is this an abrupt shift in plans, to accommodate a bustling new market? Patterson insists it’s not, that rentals were always part of the master plan.

“From the beginning, we had the idea of a diverse, planned, complete village development, with everything that meant – and that includes apartments,” she said. “We already have single-family homes, condos and town homes, but rentals are a historic need we knew we’d want to fulfill. Bristol came along at the right time, it was perfect match for us.”

She said the office has always had a request from renters. “Even our home buyers expressed a desire to rent while their homes were under construction,” she said. “Starting this fall, we’ll be able to provide that to them.”

The apartment complex is only part of the new plans as Norton Commons continues to push northward, filling the rest of its 600 acres. In a few weeks, we’ll give you a snapshot of the entire community, 10 years into its life.

Steve Kaufman
Steve Kaufman has been writing professionally since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew) on all manner of subjects, from sports to city hall to sales and marketing to running a medical practice to designing stores. His journey has taken him from Chicago to Buffalo to New York to Atlanta to Cincinnati, before landing, finally, in Louisville.