Janesville71.8°

Apartment complex targets upper niche

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JAMES P. LEUTE
August 22, 2008
— What started seven years ago with the movement of 25,000 cubic yards of dirt is now a completed housing complex that its owners say is a supporting pillar in Janesville’s economy.

Park Place Apartments, which sits on a bluff above Palmer Park, opened in 2002 with one 52-unit building. In June, Steve Shaw and his partners completed the fifth and final building in the complex off Racine Street near the intersections of Highway 11 and Interstate 90.


“I’ve been living for this day,” said Shaw, who signed the financing for the project’s first building four days before 9/11.


He has been hands-on in the management and construction of the five buildings, which together offer 270 apartments and condo-style apartments in a variety of sizes and floor plans.


With the Park Place project, Shaw and his partners targeted the high-end market. They designed and built apartment buildings that would appeal to professionals.


“Our original plan was to stay away from all the other competition, to be mostly separate from them but certainly above them,” Shaw said.


Gale Price, the city’s manager of city building and development services, said Janesville is fortunate in that it has builders and developers who provided housing that appeals to all socio-economic strata.


“Steve’s apartments are targeted for people who may be new to the area or people who know they’re only going to be here for a short period of time,” Price said. “There really hasn’t been anyone else in town to do that, and I’m sure he’s very excited about the new hospital planned for just across the interstate.”


Monthly rents start at $675 for a one-bedroom apartment and range up to $1,995 for a furnished three-bedroom unit. Furnishing is always an option, and amenities include heated underground parking, garages, fireplaces, lofts, elevators, appliances, in-unit washers and dryers and the complex’s own cable/satellite system.


The buildings’ exteriors are smartly landscaped and the interiors follow suit. Many are completely furnished, which Shaw said is a key to Park Place’s appeal in the corporate market.


“New sells, cool sells and fireplaces sell,” Shaw said. “People don’t want to just watch paint dry. Nobody is doing what we’re doing.


“Everything is kept neat and clean, and that’s where we shine with our corporate accounts.”


Shaw said that 20 to 25 percent of his tenants are corporate clients, major employers and industries in the area that often want to provide an apartment to a key employee who is cycling through the area for a one- or two-year commitment.


Shaw won’t name names, but his corporate clients include medical professionals, educators, construction engineers, production workers and supervisors.


“We market ourselves heavily to the big industries and school systems in the area,” Shaw said. “For many of those companies, we’re the only place they’ll house their people because they know we take care of them.


“The medical profession in Wisconsin has a hard time competing with places like Florida and San Diego because employees wonder where they’re going to live if they take a job here. The companies we work with are thrilled to be able to use us as a recruitment tool.”


And the corporate clients, Shaw said, offer more to Park Place than a boost to his bottom line.


“They’re great neighbors,” he said. “They tend to be single, quiet and work a lot, so they’re gone a lot.”


Shaw lives at Park Place along with members of his staff.


In Park Place’s first four buildings, occupancy is running above 90 percent. In the fifth building, which was completed in June, more than 80 percent of the 62 units are rented.


“Marketing is huge for us,” Shaw said. “A contractor friend of mine once told me the best time to bid a project is when you’re busiest, and he’s right.”


Shaw prides himself on the diversity of tenants, who he said come from all walks of life.


“We have tenants from age 18 to 91,” he said. “Good property management dictates diversity. Age and other diversity promote mutual respect.”


With the fifth building complete, the project is complete. There is no more room for any more buildings, and that’s fine with Shaw.


“Bigger doesn’t necessarily sell,” he said. “What sells are the uniqueness and the newness, and my job is to now continue managing it, marketing it and making it new all the time.”


DISPLAYS ADD TO PARK PLACE'S CHARM

Spend any time wandering the halls at Park Place Apartments, and you can’t help but notice the displays tucked in various nooks and crannies.


Marilyn Monroe is over here. Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the rest of the “Wizard of Oz” gang are over there.


Look up, and Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn are piloting the African Queen through the jungle of East Africa.


All are displays in the fifth and final apartment building at Park Place Apartments in Janesville.


And all are the brainchild of Steve Shaw, one of the complex’s owners.


“I originally thought they’d just be for me,” Shaw said. “But not a single person has ever told me the displays are ugly or that I should tear them down.”


The displays offer the feel of a boutique hotel, Shaw said.


Each of the five Park Place buildings has a distinct theme that Shaw and his daughter Mary have carried out through tireless research and acquisition of the necessary elements.


The themes are:


-- History of Janesville, Rock County and Wisconsin.


-- Conservation, recreation, sports and wildlife.


-- Government, music and education.


-- Business, industry and commerce.


-- Hollywood movies and movie stars.


“It’s just another element of entertainment,” Shaw said. “People like to be entertained, and that’s what we did.


“When you walk down the halls of most apartment buildings, all you see is vanilla. Not here.”


Shaw said his daughter is responsible for a lot of the legwork involved in putting the displays together. She’s done the research, written and edited the copy and has hung many of the displays.



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