With 130 rooms at Robin’s Apartments occupied, the former Knights Inn will continue its transformation from a motel into an apartment complex this week.
During Thursday’s meeting, Manatee County Planning Commission will consider a rezone request from Planned Development Commercial to General Commercial for the 7.38-acre property, which is located on the east side of First Street East and south of U.S. 301.
“We are a motel on paper,” said Travis Vengroff, whose father, Harvey, has transformed several motels into affordable housing. “We are trying to transition to apartment complex in actuality and practicality.”
If approved by the county commission on Feb. 2, the rezone will also allow for additional one and two-bedroom apartments to be built on the five acres adjacent to the existing buildings, Vengroff said.
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“A lot of these people are looking to transition,” he said. “They need to transition into something a little bit larger. Finding affordable housing in Bradenton or Manatee could be a difficult prospect so having a place where people can upgrade and move in the world is helpful. It is important that people have the ability to move up.”
The plan is to begin construction on the new apartments next year, Vengroff said.
It is important that people have the ability to move up.
Travis Vengroff, with Robin’s Apartments
“We would optimally like to do that this time next year,” he said.
After closing on the Knights Inn for $4.4 million on June 30, the transformation began turning the units into furnished apartments with water, electricity, cable and internet for $625 a month and the first residents moved in in July. The renovations of the Knights Inn are estimated to cost about $1.5 million.
“We filled the first 120 units in two months with two families moving in every day,” Vengroff said.
With approximately 50 units still vacant, additional renovations have just started on the property, including adding kitchenettes, and improving plumbing and electricity, Vengroff said, adding that it should take between two and three months to renovate each building.
“We are putting in sprinklers and very shortly upgrading rooms to be a lot nicer,” he said.
Robin’s Apartments, 2303 First St., is doing really great, Vengroff said.
“We got a very positive community,” he said. “Everyone is looking out for each other. Many of the people moving into Robin’s were living in their cars or homeless. We have really given them stability.”
With a number of the residents recovering from substance abuse, it is a very at-risk community, Vengroff said.
“Everyone who is with us right now is doing pretty good,” he said. “Our core group is doing well. Morale is really high now that we are through the holiday season.”