The Renaissance Santa Rosa Apartments are scheduled to be completed by mid-2021 and will house 229 units.

MARY ESTHER – The work that still needs to be done on the Renaissance Santa Rosa Apartments is daunting.

It’s a massive construction project that will cost an estimated $40-45 million and won’t be finished until the middle of 2021.

The work that led up to Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony next door to Santa Rosa Mall was just as daunting.

The luxury apartments, a nine-acre site that used to be home to Belk’s department store, are a joint venture between Radiant Partners, owners of the Santa Rosa Mall, Rea Ventures and New York-based Hill Property Partners. The apartment complex will have four buildings that hold 229 units – a mix of 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom and some 3-bedroom residences that range from 700-1,000 square feet.

The complex will also be chock-full of amenities – a resort-style pool, controlled access parking, a fenced dog park, 24-hour fitness center and a 5,000-square foot clubhouse, among other additions.

For the Santa Rosa Mall, it could mean new life in an age where the retail market has bottomed out when it comes to physical store locations. Imagine restaurants and bars where retail chains once thrived but have since shuttered.

“For us, it’s the beginning of a transition for the mall from being a pure retail play to a mixed-used play,” said David Schonberger, a founding member of Radiant Partners. “That’s pretty exciting and we feel fortunate that we have this site ... we can accomplish a lot with this property.

 

“With how the (apartments) are set up, it’s a separate, self-contained community so you won’t feel like you’re living next to the mall or at the mall, so to speak, because that wouldn’t work in this community … we want the services to be adjacent but the residents not to feel engulfed by those services.”

The apartments also fall in line with the vision of Hill Property Partners and CEO Mitchel Hill, who are overseeing similar projects in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, St. Louis, San Antonio, Columbus, Ohio, and Ithaca, New York.

“We want to find markets that are overlooked or have a compelling need or story behind the project,” Hill said. “When we came down and visited this community we could see there was a need for a beautiful, luxury, multi-family housing here … but just being here and seeing what this area had to offer drove home that this was a project we wanted to be part of. We do feel like we’re ahead of the curve.

“Our partners in this were really visionary in their efforts. They had the foresight and the guts, frankly, to move forward when people were telling them it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done.”

There’s no doubt the project’s leadership group has taken the central critique of their endeavor – its proximity to the mall – and turned it into a positive talking point.

Schonberger talks about filling empty spaces in the mall with millennial-friendly businesses. Hill talks about how malls were constructed in the first place – built to be next to major transportation points. For future residents, that means quicker commutes to and from work.

“We’re very excited to see this coming into reality,” said Breck Kean, vice president of Rea Ventures. “We’re thoroughly convinced there’s a very strong housing market that will want to live here. We put a lot of thought, time and effort into making sure this is appealing.”

This might not be the last project the group collaborates on, either.

“The goal is not to stop with (the apartments),” Schonberger said. “We want to bring in another phase, maybe something with a twist on what we’ve already done. Possibly elderly living or 55-and-older living that appeals to people already living here or moving here.

“The beaches, the great weather and all the things that make this such an exciting area … those are all in place. Maybe it could be something for people who want to be here but maybe don’t want to live in Destin. Hopefully we’ve started something here.”