As a 100-year-old private company, City Club Apartments LLC has weathered a variety of challenges through the years, including the Great Recession and the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks. But the COVID-19 pandemic presents a different kind of test for the Detroit-area developer, which owns and operates more than 20 luxury apartment communities in the Midwest, including Plaza City Club Apartments on the Country Club Plaza. It's also developing the $75 million City Club Apartments Crossroads Kansas City, which includes amenities such as 24/7 concierge service, a heated rooftop pool, outdoor theater, dog park and a restaurant/wine bar.
"It's an invisible enemy," City Club Apartments CEO Jonathan Holtzman told the Kansas City Business Journal . "What's different is the health and fear. … We know that things are going to improve. We're very optimistic that every week things will get better."
City Club Apartments now relies heavily on its virtual tour technology, which it had prior to the pandemic. In addition to taking virtual tours online of an apartment community, prospective residents also can sign up for a virtual tour with a leasing agent, who uses a video conferencing platform to showcase the units available to rent. Leases also can be signed online.
"We feel that we clearly had a head start over our competitors, because we've been renting every week in every one of our apartment communities. Rentals don't stop," Holtzman said.
Construction and preleasing
In some states, like Michigan, apartment construction hasn't been deemed essential, so City Club Apartments' two projects in Detroit now are paused.
"We've got people that have rented the apartments and they've given notice to their current apartment or they're relocating for a job," he said. "So it's a very difficult problem to manage because the governor is not showing any flexibility with this issue. We're trying to manage everybody's wanting information, and it's not available. We're hoping this week or next week that the governor will look at the other states for guidance."
In Kansas City, construction on the new apartment community in the Crossroads Arts District has continued but at a slower pace due to social distancing protocols. To help minimize disruption, contractors are working longer hours and are heading in on Saturdays, Holtzman said. It's unclear how much of a delay the pandemic has caused, he said. The first tenants are expected to move in during the third quarter.
Preleasing on the local luxury apartments started months ago but has slowed recently due to the pandemic. Some
potential renters have been laid off from jobs and won't start looking for an apartment until they know more about their future outlook.
Holtzman thinks the preleasing and renting pace will start picking up in the next few weeks or 30 to 60 days.
"I think there's going to be this pent-up demand as soon as people get their job back or get a job," he said.
Amid the pandemic, Holtzman sees several positives, including the fact that the company adapted to new technology ahead of competitors. Some of its other apartment projects also could make up for lost time as other types of construction are paused, making more subcontractors available.
As City Club Apartments hires employees for its new apartment communities, including Kansas City, Holtzman plans to source laid off talent from the hotel industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
In Kansas City, the company has promoted existing employees and aims to fill marketing, concierge, housekeeping and maintenance roles.