Condos seek retail partner

by Allie Winter

The condominiums near campus, U Flats, have yet to fill an empty slot in the building – the retail space.

The new condos, located at the intersection of 26th and University avenues southeast, opened in September 2006. All but two of the 75 housing units are filled, but the retail space remains open.

Tony Zosel, a marketing employee for U Flats, said it hasn’t been filled because the building’s developers want a specific match for the space, despite many offers.

“We’ve turned down opportunities already that didn’t fit in. We’re not going to sell it to just anybody,” he said.

Zosel said he expects a coffee shop or restaurant will end up filling the space.

He also said U Flats might be charging too much for the space, but it isn’t worth lowering the price and bringing in a lower-grade retailer.

U Flats began trying to sell the space early this year. Last fall, Zosel said, they were dedicated to taking care of the residents and making sure building needs were fulfilled.

Now they are trying to sell or lease the space, which is big enough for one large store or two smaller ones.

The developers hired a property professional on Jan. 1 and got several leads. Zosel said he and the developers are extremely excited about a couple of the prospects.

“The higher the class of the retailer, the more high class the building becomes,” he said.

Ryan Lee, a U Flats salesperson, said putting a coffee shop or a restaurant in the space would be the best bet.

“We want something that will be complementary to the building and the area,” he said. “We will not be building a strip club.”

As far as the surrounding area having an impact on the sale, Zosel isn’t worried. He said that being in Prospect Park has its benefits. He said any retail space here would do fine because of the high student population.

“Plus, with the light rail coming in, there will be even more traffic to the University,” he said. “Eventually, it’s going to sell.”

The parking lot provided in the back, a rarity on campus, could be an added bonus, Zosel said.

Also, students have noted the lack of caffeine in the area. Erich Schaffhauser, a journalism senior and Melrose Student Suites resident, said having coffee nearby would be great.

Although the Melroast Café is located in the building, he said it is a long walk to other coffee shops.

When trying to fill living units, U Flats had a much faster response because of billboards. Lee said during construction last year, two hours after the billboards were put up, the sales office received 10 to 15 phone calls and e-mail inquiries about the new student living community.

U Flats’ sister project, M Flats, is scheduled to open next fall just blocks away. But Zosel said not to expect an available home at the start of the school year. It will be closer to October.

“We’re not a dormitory, we’re a private seller selling property,” he said.