Renfro apartments ready to debut

UPDATED — There will be more than art on display downtown for the Oct. 26 Final Friday.

Developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey, in collaboration with Farha Construction, also are introducing their new Renfro apartments, including some gallery space in the first floor hallway of the historic building.

The property was built at 612 E. Douglas in 1908 and once was home to the Renfro hotel. Most recently, it was Victoria Park Apartments.

“It’s a building that needed a lot of love,” Ramsey says.

He applied for the building to be on the National Register of Historic Places and was able to use historic tax credits in renovating it.

“We love being part of giving a building another 100 years of life,” says contractor Ted Farha. “There’s something pretty special about that.

“When it comes to sustainability or green building, really, I don’t think there’s anything greener than taking an existing building and bringing it up to date.”

There are 20 units, including a few live-work units with metal spiral staircases between the work and living spaces. There also are two commercial spaces in the front of the building. Those spaces are still available. Four of the apartments, including one live-work space, are leased.

There are unique touches throughout the building, such as original ceiling tins in some apartments, a garage door in one back unit and glass brick where another garage door once was.

Ramsey says he, Eyster and Farha Construction incorporated a lot of what they learned from renovating the Zelman Lofts building just down the street.

“The things that worked we tried to keep,” he says.

That includes open areas and ambient light.

“People will put up with smaller living space if we give them lots of storage, lots of shared light, lots of open area … and we give them nice kitchens and nice bathrooms.”

They found substantial savings by having Farha build cabinets in each of the units instead of buying them.

There are further savings for renters with high efficiency heating and air and LED lighting.

“We employed all the current technology that’s available to make this building as green as possible without going through . . . all the LEED Certification stuff,” Farha says. “It’s really satisfying to be able to do that. To create great living spaces for people.”

Unit plans and prices, which range from $550 to $1,360, can be found here.

“We want to make affordable apartments for downtown,” Ramsey says.

Anyone who signs a lease by Dec. 1 will receive a $50 gift certificate to the Old Mill Tasty Shop, which Ramsey jokingly says “probably is the best part of the whole deal.”

“Leasing should go very quickly,” he says.

Ramsey is confident in part because at the same point in the Zelman’s redevelopment, there was no preleasing, and here there is.

“There’s been an increased interest in this where people are calling us before it’s even open.”

Once leasing began at the Zelman, it was immediately up to 100 percent occupancy and has stayed that way.

Although there has been interest in the commercial space in the front of the Zelman building, Ramsey says he’s hesitated to make a deal yet.

“That corner’s always been special,” he says. “We’re just waiting for the perfect tenant.”