By Sam Prickett
The Hill luxury apartments in Homewood were always meant to exist as condominiums, but developers say a downturn in the market got in the way.
“It was always planned to be a for-sale product, or at least when it was designed and developed,” John Chapman, a portfolio manager for Farris Properties said. “And then the market condition at the time just didn’t warrant the units to be sold.”
Now, he said, the market is just right for condominiums. And so the Hill is being reimagined as the Eastbury, a development with 122 units that residents will own, not rent.
Options include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, which Chapman said should appeal to a wide range of buyers, including “folks who want a lower-maintenance type of lifestyle, where they can have a place in an urban setting, whether they’re traveling as professionals, young or old, downsizing or upsizing.”
That wide appeal, developers said, is largely because of the building’s location at 1840 Oxmoor Road, a short distance from Homewood’s thriving downtown area.
“The location is irreplaceable, really,” Chapman said. “Across all of our prospective purchasers’ demographics, I think that’s a common (desire), to be able to walk to shopping, all the amenities. (The area) is really on the upswing, too. There are a lot of things occurring in downtown Homewood now that this project can play into.”
Most of the physical changes required to convert the apartments into condominiums are cosmetic.
“There are countertop selections in 2019 that are different than they were several years ago,” Chapman said. “Crown packages and trim packages are enhanced from where they were. The color schemes, the flooring – we’re converting a lot of the bathtubs to walk-in showers, which is kind of a market-desired piece now in a lot of the units.”
There’s also a reimagining of the building’s interior aesthetic, which is meant to reflect the Eastbury’s new slogan: “The Art of Life.” That includes fine art selected by Terry Slaughter of the Slaughter Group, a Homewood-based advertising agency.
“When you do a conversion, you really want to get at a new image, so you do a new brand,” said Margi Ingram, president of Ingram and Associates, a Homewood-based commercial real estate firm. “A lot of art will be involved in the development – in the lobby, in the lounge area and in the living room, which is what we call a limited common area for people to congregate and connect with each other.”
The building’s main entrance, Ingram added, will be redesigned at some point “to make it more residential, so that you’ll know it’s a permanent living space instead of a temporary one.”
The Eastbury also will include a swimming pool, which Ingram calls “the heart of the community,” an outdoor kitchen, a fitness room, off-street parking, garage spaces and storage rooms.
Despite the cosmetic upgrades, the infrastructure of the building will mostly be unchanged as the Hill becomes the Eastbury.
“The appeal of the project to us, besides the location, is the amenity package and the physical structure that was already here,” Chapman said. That allows for what he calls “a very attractive” price point, which ranges from $200,000 to $400,000. “It’s almost rare in this market that you could put together a deal of this size with the entry points we’re able to do,” he said.
Ingram agreed, comparing it to redevelopments of older buildings in downtown Birmingham.
“I think there’s a lot of creativity going on today with repurposing properties that have been there forever,” she said. “This one just happened to be a new one and we didn’t have to do as much … . If you had to build it all again, I doubt you’d be able to have all of these amenities because the land cost would be phenomenal.”
Progress on the conversion is still ongoing. Chapman said condos will not be publicly available for offers until August, though that date is “a moving target.”
“We’ve allowed an extended period to the current residents of the community to make a determination if ownership is right for them or if they want to pursue other living arrangements,” he said.
For members of the public who are interested, Ingram said reservations can be made without a deposit and developers will call when they’re ready for market.