Count the top executives of SIHO Insurance Services firmly among boosters of downtown Columbus who can’t wait for the first tenants to move into the new $18 million Cole Apartments by the end of this week.
“We think it will be a big benefit to downtown, just wonderful,” said Marc Rothbart, SIHO’s chief financial officer, of the four-story, 146-unit apartment building that has risen at Jackson and Second streets over the past year-and-a-half.
Rothbart said SIHO has agreed to lease a pair of two-bedroom apartments at The Cole, and plans to use the space to house its summer interns. During other times of the year, the insurer will let out-of-town employees or SIHO clients who travel to Columbus on business stay in the apartments.
Such corporate support, coupled with interest from individual renters, has helped The Cole’s developer, Buckingham Cos. of Indianapolis, secure leases for 50 percent of the 146 apartments for rent at this point, senior regional property manager Angie Atkins said at midweek.
The first tenants will begin moving into The Cole in a matter of days, Atkins said, saying the flurry of activity could help spark more lease commitments from roughly 200 other prospects who have asked for property information or completed rental applications.
Atkins, who oversees properties in Indiana and Illinois for Buckingham Cos., said The Cole seems to be appealing largely to singles, particularly those who work downtown.
“The trend is driven by lifestyle choices. The Cole offers proximity to downtown restaurants and workplaces (including engine maker Cummins Inc. and health insurer SIHO) as well as quick interstate access,” she said. “People say the property has a close-knit, urban feel to it, even though Columbus remains a small town.”
Lisa Abendroth, who owns The Savory Swine food boutique on Washington Street three blocks from The Cole, said she’s “thrilled with the type of residents” being drawn to the property.
“Apartment buildings sure have come a long way since I was renting,” said Abendroth, whose meat-and-wine shop catered a wine tasting at The Cole earlier this month to christen the building’s sales center.
Features such as a first-floor workout room, cyber café and game room all seem designed to create a sense of fun and a community feel, she said.
“Even the mail-collection area is set up almost like a little breakfast nook. They’re really trying to promote socializing among the tenants,” Abendroth said. “It’s going to be happy hour every day there.”
The Cole’s marketing study settled on splitting the property with roughly 75 percent one-bedroom units and 25 percent two-bedrooms under the strategy that single tenants with good-paying jobs probably were the biggest target group.
One-bedroom apartments at The Cole have rents starting at $960 per month for a one-year lease, while two-bedroom units lease for a maximum of $1,295 per month. The property also will allow a six-month lease, but monthly rents rise by $75 for that shorter-term option.
Prospective tenants are able to choose from among five floor plans. Apartments on the first floor feature 14-foot ceilings, helping give the property an airy, spacious feel. Ceilings on the second, third and fourth floors are 10 and a half feet.
Buckingham Cos. has marketed The Cole largely via low-key functions such as an open house Thursday, sponsored by Cummins, and other business after-hours events or luncheons.
Amenities at The Cole cater to a younger crowd, with a media/game room equipped with Wii and Xbox games and large-screen TVs. A nearby exercise area is filled with more flat-screen TVs, plus sleek treadmills and top-flight weight equipment.
“We’re competitively priced, but our properties skew a bit to the higher end,” said Jim Smith, an executive with Buckingham’s development division.
“Technology is a big part of what we do,” Smith added. “The media room is a place to host a party or watch the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis Colts or the Indiana Pacers play on TV with other tenants.”
Atkins said The Cole will have a staff of four, including a maintenance supervisor, and 24-hour emergency maintenance service.
Each unfurnished, all-electric apartment comes equipped with a washer, dryer and kitchen appliances. There’s a full bath for each bedroom.
Tenants can arrange a furniture rental package (provided through Cort Furniture Rental) at an extra cost above the basic lease rate, Atkins said.
The Cole also has five retail pads (a total of 9,000 square feet) to be leased to service-related companies such as a bank branch or quick-serve restaurants, Smith said. On Friday, Buckingham officials said there were no final retail leases to report, although some deals were edging closer to fruition.