Wichita WaterWalk Apartments targeting mix of corporate, traditional renters

07/31/2014 5:35 PM

07/31/2014 11:04 PM

Jack DeBoer’s 133-unit, flexible-lease apartment building near downtown is set to open in early September with a new name – and plans to make it a national brand.

Gone is the Value Place Apartments name for the complex at 411 W. Maple, which is set to open Sept. 8. In its place is the name WaterWalk Apartments.

Officials said they plan to take DeBoer’s concept of flexible-lease apartments national – through properties that will be company-owned and franchised – David Redfern, president of DeBoer’s Consolidated Holdings, said Thursday.

Consolidated Holdings will be taking ownership of the Wichita apartments from Value Place, DeBoer’s extended-stay hotel chain, Redfern said.

“It was originally going to be part of Value Place,” he said. But because the WaterWalk concept consists of one unfinished apartment project and Value Place is made up of nearly 190 hotels in 32 states, it would be difficult to manage the two concepts under one company.

“They are in two different life cycles and two different business models,” Redfern said.

Redfern was previously president of development for Value Place and moved to Consolidated Holdings to lead the national expansion of WaterWalk Apartments.

He will be assisted by Jon Wohlfert, who has joined as president of WaterWalk Apartments. The 30-year hospitality executive was most recently executive vice president of sales for the Extended Stay America hotel chain, based in Charlotte, N.C. Wohlfert will manage WaterWalk Apartments’ national operations.

“He makes it work, and I make it grow,” Redfern said.

Additional WaterWalk Apartments are expected to be developed in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, as well as in Denver, Indianapolis and Charlotte, N.C.

Redfern said he expects WaterWalk Apartments to be developed first in Charlotte, Denver and Indianapolis, some as early as this year. He said the Charlotte and Indianapolis projects will be owned by franchisees.

Redfern and Wohlfert said WaterWalk Apartments’ niche fits portions of the market that aren’t being served by extended-stay hotels, apartments and corporate housing. The concept will include leases as short as one week and offer furnished apartments with amenities such as breakfast dishes delivered weekly, housekeeping and concierge services.

“The week to six-month (lease) range … that’s not really served,” Redfern said of that market, which largely serves business travelers who may be in town for a short stay or to work on a project lasting several months.

Wohlfert said they have presented the concept to potential local corporate clients, “and we’ve been overwhelmed with their response. Consistency and service is really important to that group.”

The other part of the business model will serve traditional apartment dwellers with unfurnished apartments with a minimum six-month lease.

The Wichita WaterWalk Apartments began pre-leasing last week.

Redfern said that, since then, nearly a third of the project’s one-, two- and three-bedroom units have been pre-leased, and those leases are evenly split between corporate and traditional apartment dwellers.

Work on the $10 million project began in July 2013. Accel Construction is the general contractor, and Law Kingdon is the architect. Simmons First National Bank is the lender.

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