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Three Innovative Projects To Watch

You can’t make it big by following the herd. Whether it’s a creative conversion, neighborhood facelift, or submarket migration, these three deals are chasing yield by thinking differently.

BALTIMORE: Nursing home goes Benjamin Button


Most national demographic buzz centers on the so-called “silver tsunami,” but we can’t forget our housing-hungry students in dense education centers. Marenberg Enterprises (MEI) is among the owners/operators converting a nursing home at 501 W Franklin St to 170 grad student apartments (Kann Partners is architect on the project), Sandy Marenberg, snapped with Continental Title Group’s William Yerman, tells us. (If only the gym would bring back our grad school physique.) Formerly James Brown Motor Inn, the building’s units will of course be open to other residents, but the location can feed off the University of Maryland, University of Baltimore, Maryland Institute College of Art, and others.

SAN ANTONIO: Recycling seedy into swank


It’s smarter to redevelop underutilized sites instead of spending more tax money adding infrastructure to virgin tracts, Guillermo Nicolas says. He’s leading the push to revitalize the run-down and seedy Austin Highway Corridor, first with the demolition of two sleazy hotels and an apartment complex. In their place, he’ll soon deliver 278-unit luxury multifamily community 1111 Austin Highway. (Maybe he’ll add a rooftop garden to keep it seedy.) There’s still room on the tract for 8k SF to 10k SF of hipster retail. Guillermo envisions a corner restaurant under an oak tree, cool coffee shop and/or brew pub. (There’s a man who’s been to Brooklyn.)

SEATTLE: Home of alternative music likes alternative markets


There’s always a trickle-down effect with multifamily, since not everyone can pay the hottest hoods’ high rents. In Seattle, that means growing demand outside the city and Bellevue in “close-proximity alternative” markets, TruAmerica director of acquisitions Noah Hochman says. That’s why the LA-based investor picked up 174-unit Montclair Heights in Renton, a maturing area with the sustained strength of a Boeing 737 plant and the expansion of local shopping and entertainment, Noah says. (In teenagers, maturity also brings more shopping and entertainment.) Renton has some of the market’s strongest fundamentals with 3.1% vacancy, so the property’s room for rental growth has value-add appeal, he says.