BRADENTON -- On Jan. 15, up to a couple dozen moving trucks are expected to pull into the parking lot at Riversong Apartments to deliver the first of hundreds new downtown residents to their homes.
Under construction for just over a year, the 179-unit Riversong is the first large multifamily development built in downtown Bradenton since the River Dance Condominiums were completed in 2007. This week, the first units in the four-story complex were getting some finishing touches as builders started turning their attention to hallways and other common spaces.
The apartments open in the midst of a growing waterfront residential enclave on and near Bradenton's "sandpile" along the Manatee River. Adjacent to the 11-year-old 210 Watermark apartments, Riversong is pushing into a market that is basing much of its value on views of the river and the lure of downtown living.
James Victor, Riversong's community manager, said that with about five weeks remaining until opening day, that value supports the monthly rental rates the complex will charge. One-bedroom units start at $975, while three-bedroom models are priced as high as $1,800. Those rates, which Riversong announced last year, are well above the average in Manatee. One-bedroom apartment rents average $810 and three-bedroom units average $1,115, according to a third-quarter survey of apartment rates completed by Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT.
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According to website Rent.com, rates at the 216-unit 210 Watermark range between $861 and $1,700.
Riversong will be one of a number of new apartment developments opening throughout the county during the next year. Those openings occur as historically low vacancy rates seen in the county 18 months ago have climbed to between 3.75 and 4.5 percent.
Victor said he is confident that Riversong will fill its units because of its riverfront location.
"With our rates staying the same and with what we're offering, it's a sure win," he said.
Finished units across seven one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans feature kitchens that open to living rooms, balconies or patios, large bathrooms and floor coverings including carpet, ceramic tile and wood grain vinyl. The block-and-stucco complex has two courtyards on the river side of
the building, including one with a pool.
Indoor common areas include a clubhouse and a Starbuck's cafe making coffee available free to residents throughout the day. Victor said Riversong's management company, Atlanta-based RAM Partners, has not yet decided whether to staff the cafe.
The 3.5-acre complex will be gated. The grounds will be landscaped within 30 feet of the building.
Atlanta builder Robert Hatfield owns Riversong through his company, Hatfield Development. The complex is being built on fill land that was created between First and Ninth streets along the riverfront during the 1960s. That land has long been called "The Sandpile." Hatfield is also the developer of Riviera Southshore, a 21-acre project planned to bring hundreds of multifamily units to the east side of downtown. Bradenton-based NDC Construction is the general contractor for the apartments.
Riversong is being completed without several commercial elements that were initially included in the development. Bradenton allowed Hatfield to back away from early plans to put 19,000 square feet of commercial space into the first floor of Riversong. A later proposal to build 30,000 square feet of commercial space also was scrapped.
The city did exact a promise from Hatfield Development to build a restaurant on the property no more than 90 days after Riversong receives a certificate of occupancy. However, Victor said there are no plans at this time to do any commercial development on Riversong property.
Dave Gustafson, executive director of the city's Downtown Development District, said he's not surprised that the additional development didn't gel. He said downtown Bradenton still needs to build residential density to attract more shops, services or even a supermarket to the area. Riversong is a step in the right direction.
"Three hundred people is not going to bring the grocery store," Gustafson said. "Before the commercial can come, you need rooftops."
Victor said he sees little in the way of competition from new apartment developments in the area. While East Manatee complexes including the 256-unit Creekside Apartments and the 237-unit Venue at Lakewood Ranch offer similar interior amenities, he said the river view and access to River Walk and downtown Bradenton is a rare commodity.
Riversong is marketing its units to a range of potential residents, including retirees, working people and part-time Florida residents. Victor said building management has not yet decided whether to lease some units as short-term rentals.
For leasing information, call 941-251-5915 or visit the development's website, riversongapartments.com.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.