Photos Keith Beauchamp
Just because a building has seen better days doesn’t mean it necessarily should be torn down. That’s the mindset of Rome, Georgia, builder and entrepreneur Wayne Robinson. He enjoys saving aging structures from the wrecking ball, renovating them, and giving them a new purpose. Case in point: The Avenue, a soon-to-open apartment building owned by Robinson and two long-time friends and business associates, Brian Dulaney and Robert Sturdivant. Hardy Realty is handling the apartments’ management.
A University of Georgia graduate, Robinson got into the construction business right out of college. After working for a developer in Atlanta for a few years, he returned to his hometown of Rome and started building new residential neighborhoods. “We built many of the subdivisions you see around town,” Robinson says. Then, when the housing market took a tumble in the mid-2000s, he pivoted and went into the restaurant business (Steak ‘n Shake, Bojangles, O’Charley’s). But Robinson is always looking for the next challenge, so now he and his partners are focusing on building carwashes and doing renovation projects like The Avenue.
Help for the housing crunch
The Avenue was repurposed from what was the Oyo Hotel (which was originally part of a Holiday Inn). The hotel operated until the day Robinson and his partners signed the closing papers. “On that very day,” Robinson says, “the previous owners got in their car and drove off, leaving everything where it was. All the furniture. The sheets were still on the beds. They just sold us the place, closed it up, and moved on.” He laughs and adds, “We could have kept the place open if we wanted to. Everything was still there. We had an open house and people came and took what they wanted, so we were very fortunate that most of it got taken.”
Robinson says, “The reason we decided to do this project was that Rome really needs apartments—we’re still quite a bit underserved—especially when it comes to apartments in town.”
Cozy, clean, and brand new
Robinson and his partners knew the old hotel was a perfect building to renovate. It had—as they say in real estate—great bones. “The walls were rock-solid,” says Robinson. “The external walls, the ceilings, floors, and the walls between the apartments are all concrete. That gives each unit great sound protection and energy savings.”
All total, The Avenue features 23 apartments. That’s 20 one-bedroom apartments and three two-bedroom apartments. The building has two floors and covered exterior wrap-around walkways on both levels. Each apartment has a full kitchen with new stainless steel appliances and a washer and dryer in each unit. Robinson points out, “The two-bedroom apartments have two washers and dryers, one for each bedroom suite. That way, if you have a roommate, you don’t have to go through their bedroom to deal with your laundry.”
“The countertops in the kitchens and bathrooms are quartz,” Robinson says, “which is one of the most durable materials you can have. Even more durable than marble or granite. It’s easy to maintain.” All the bathrooms have brand new ceramic tile. The color scheme is neutral, to work well with anyone’s décor.
“The flooring throughout is all brand new LVP,” says Robinson, “which has a wood look to it and is very durable, easy to maintain. Wet mop it and you’re done.” Also, all the cooling and heating systems are new, as are the plumbing and electrical. And the whole building is protected from fire by a sprinkler system.
As an added bonus, on one end of the building there is a workout room, which is code-accessed for the residents.
Location, location, location
The Avenue, at 712 Avenue A, is just a half a block from Turner McCall and borders one of Rome’s historical districts, where many classic old homes have been lovingly restored.
“Of course, the location is what’s so good,” says Robinson. “It’s right next to the walking trail that runs along the river. The young people especially love the trail. It’s conveniently located at about a ten-minute walk to downtown. The property is fully gated, and with decorative fencing. Fully secured. Code-activated. So, it’s a very safe environment. Also, we’re next door to stores and restaurants, so that’s a plus. This is a quiet street, not a major highway.”
Hand-in-hand with Hardy Realty
The renovation of the hotel into an apartment building was a challenge, but it went according to plan. “This has been about a year’s process to get all of this done,” says Robinson. Even several weeks after the previous owners of the Oyo Hotel had moved away, people kept showing up to rent a room. Apparently, their reservations had never been canceled. People drove up, wanting to check in, but found construction workers demolishing the rooms. It took a while for that to stop happening.
Now that all the chaos of renovation is over and the apartments are ready to lease, Hardy Realty has stepped in to manage the property. “I’ve known those guys at Hardy basically all my life,” says Robinson. “They’re a very reputable company. Jimmy Kelly is who I bought this property through. Jimmy’s a good friend of mine, and he asked me at the time he sold it to me if they could have a chance at managing it. So, I honored that verbal agreement. I look forward to seeing how that goes, because I know Hardy has a tremendous management division in their company.”
Those interested in leasing at The Avenue can contact Hardy Realty’s Kathy Mull at Kathy@HardyRealty.com or call her at 706-291-4321.