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Published: Friday, 6/16/2006

West Toledo apartment complex in midst of $1.8 million facelift

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Sean Greenwood pries away part of a damaged door frame. Sean Greenwood pries away part of a damaged door frame.
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In the postwar years, it provided stylish pads for returning GIs and their brides studying at nearby "TU."

Later, the 305-unit apartment complex became one of the earliest finds of billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell.

But with 130 vacant units and few improvements over the past two decades, the Village at Hampshire Heights has seen better days. Now, new owners are looking to turn around the troubled property on Middlesex Drive at Central Avenue.

"It's a unique product within the Toledo marketplace," said commercial real estate broker John Aubry, lead partner in the investment group that bought the apartments this year. "I feel good about the Westgate market."

The complex, renamed Georgetown Village, is in the midst of a $1.8 million facelift that the new owners hope will help boost occupancy to 90 percent from a recent dismal low of 55 percent.

Mr. Aubry and his partners in Douglas Manor Ltd. also hope the complex, which has 70 buildings, will bring them the luck it brought Mr. Zell.

Today known as the grandfather of real estate investment trusts, the 64-year-old chairman and founder of Chicago-based Equity Residential was then a recently minted graduate of the University of Michigan law school. He made small initial real estate invest-ments in Ann Arbor while an undergraduate at UM.

The Village at Hampshire Heights, built in 1950, was home to many postwar newlywed couples. The Village at Hampshire Heights, built in 1950, was home to many postwar newlywed couples.
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Then he discovered the Toledo real estate market. His first major purchase was University Park Apartments, 1517 Secor Rd., Mr. Zell recalled in a telephone interview.

In 1971, he added the Village at Hampshire Heights to his still-small real estate portfolio, he said. "I had done nothing of this size before," he said. "We owned the other project in Toledo and this was a natural fit for us."

The apartment complexes later became part of Equity Residential, which today is the nation's largest publicly traded owner/operator of multifamily housing, with more than 200,000 apartments. "We did very well with them," Mr. Zell said of the Toledo properties.

Equity Residential held the properties until 1999, when they were sold as part of a corporate shift away from older apartments, he added.

Village at Hampshire Heights was built in 1950, according to Lucas County real estate records. Mr. Aubry and his partners paid $4.1 million for the complex in March, county real estate records show.

The last major investment was in 1988 when windows were replaced, Mr. Aubry said.

Because of the size of the complex, renovations are on a grand scale. When the new owners decided to change exterior doors, they had to buy 138, he said. Hallways and individual units are getting new paint, carpeting, and updating, he added.

His goal is to reach 90 percent occupancy in 12 to 24 months. The plan is to rent units for $410 to $475 a month.

Mr. Aubry approached Mr. Zell a few months ago at a conference in Chicago, where they discussed the Toledo projects.

The new owner is mindful of the project's role in Toledo history.

"It was a real cross-section of the Toledo marketplace back in the '50s and '60s," he said. "Early on, the tenants were young marrieds who were looking for their first homes. Many went on to build homes in that part of West Toledo.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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