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Suzanne Oliver


Real Estate: Condos for Rent

Rather than fight an uphill battle, some developers burdened with
surplus inventory in a disastrous housing market are converting condos
into luxury apartments.

“At one point, we had almost 70 percent of [our] building under
contract,” says Valerie Edwards, president of Integral Development
Company LLC, which is affiliated with the developer of Renaissance Walk
condos. “But as the time approached for closing on the units, the
prospective owners started canceling contracts. We were far from
breaking even on the operating expenses and maintenance for the condos.
Renting units was a way for us to defray costs by generating income on
unsold units.”

Compared to a traditional apartment, condos typically offer more square
footage and nicer amenities, in addition to a heftier monthly outlay.
“They are generally just above market rate, and that is due to the
superior construction and quality finishes not found in most
apartments,” says Tabb Neblett, assistant development manager of Urban
Realty Partners, the firm behind Oakland Park, a condo development that
signs both deeds and leases. These days, luxury condos come standard
with hardwood floors, granite countertops, expansive windows, skyline
views, fitness centers, gated security, and twenty-four-hour concierge
services. Often there are rooftop pools and tennis courts, first-floor
retail shops, and richly appointed clubrooms.

Another advantage, says Michelle Mashburn, property manager of Mezzo, a
nineteen-story condo tower between Midtown and Buckhead, is that renters
get to taste high-rise living and see if it suits their lifestyles.
Condos also tend to be more private than apartment complexes, which
typically house many more units, says Patrick Kassin, marketing manager
of Tivoli Properties, the developer behind Mezzo.

Why not just slash asking prices? “We have a fixed construction loan
that must be paid back,” says Edwards, “and we will be unable to do this
if we drastically reduce prices.” Renting also increases the occupancy
rate and ensures a high-end clientele, says Mashburn. Plus, “current
homeowners understand that this is in the best long-term interest of
their investments,” adds Neblett. Nonetheless, when the economy gains
ground, these three condo developments will go back to sales only.


2171 Peachtree Road, 404-351-8860, mezzoatlanta.com
SIZE: 1–3 bedrooms; 1,155–2,300 square feet
MONTHLY RENT: Averages $2,332 for 1 BR
LEASE PURCHASE OPTION: No; however, renter gets first option to buy
SELLING PRICE: Mid-$300s to $2 million
WALK-THRU: Viking appliances, Kohler sinks and tubs, eucalyptus steam
room, sauna, massage room, indoor “pet respite” with grooming
facilities, street-front restaurant


563 Memorial Drive, 404-688-0300, oaklandparkatlanta.com
SIZE: 1–2 bedrooms; 688–1,424 square feet
MONTHLY RENT: Averages $950 for 1 BR
SELLING PRICE: $133,900 to $399,900
WALK-THRU: Rooftop deck, LEED certification, bamboo floors, Energy Star
appliances, dual-flush toilets, low-VOC paint


171 Auburn Avenue, 404-521-3008, renaissancewalk.com
SIZE: 1–2 bedrooms; 744–1,070 square feet
MONTHLY RENT: Averages $900 for 1 BR
LEASE PURCHASE OPTION: Yes; four available
SELLING PRICE: Average $267,000
WALK-THRU: Stainless steel appliances, rooftop tennis court, pool,
street-front retail

At Home With: Susan Kolowich

Francophile: As C’est Moi is inspired by French culture, it’s only fitting that Kolowich’s own home is likewise. The living room’s silver-leafed bamboo drapery rods and bergère upholstered in orange silk are both fabulously French.

World view:
Kolowich warns that buying all French can become a bit stale, so she mixes global goods both in her store’s inventory and at home. Here, she has drapery fabric by Britain’s Trisha Guild in the living room, a replica of a terra-cotta soldier from China in the foyer, and a Moroccan mirror in the dining room.

Design sense: “I do like some modern thrown in, but it still has to be comfortable. Then again, give me a good old antique from France and I’m giddy with excitement.”

Shopping her shop:
Many of Kolowich’s furnishings, from her hand-carved Aidan Gray candlesticks to the shell mirror in the foyer, are from C’est Moi. One of the perks of running your own store for twenty-one years is finding great accents for yourself.

Prized collections: “The French typically incorporate a lot of their travels into their design.” This mother of three keeps reminders of family vacations around her home, such as separate bowls of foreign coins and smooth sea glass.

Sweetest souvenir: Crosses hanging on a wall in the dining room are mementos from Texas, where Kolowich’s husband, Jim, went for cancer treatment last year.

Older than they appear: Worn hardwood floors and crystal doorknobs give her Marietta home a historic air, even though it’s only forty-five years old. “We also painted all the baseboards black, which, to me, gives the house an older feel.”

C’est Moi, 1100 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, 770-977-8468

This story originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Atlanta magazine

Home Tour: Contemporary Comfort

Architect David C. Fowler has established something of a reputation for his contemporary interpretations of historic genres such as Arts and Crafts and Prairie styles. So when it came time for his family to move into a larger home, it was no surprise that they bought a 1940s bungalow in Virginia-Highland. Having lived in the neighborhood for years, the Fowlers particularly appreciated the exceptional privacy of the home’s lot and the creek out back. But while the existing stone foundation and exterior brick were nice, the house was small and lacked character, so David embarked on a total remodel and expansion before moving in with his wife and two young daughters.

It took six months to hammer out his design, tripling the square footage from 1,600 to 4,800. The home, which used to be one floor, is now three, thanks to an added story and a dug-out basement. Three bedrooms are now five, and two bathrooms are now four. Additions included an airy sunroom, a wine cellar, a gym, a playroom nook, and a finished basement with a media room. Quite the transformation. “When you’re the architect, builder, and client, things seem to go faster,” he jokes.

Fowler wanted a larger, more luxurious living space, but more importantly, he didn’t want the house to stick out on the street like a sore thumb. For instance, he made sure that the roof, with its several steep pitches, didn’t tower over nearby houses. “I think it architecturally melds with the neighborhood,” he says, which is crucial to the heart of the community. A cookie-cutter McMansion wouldn’t do.

The exterior is an Arts and Crafts collage of dormer windows, neutral colors, weathered granite, and the original brick. Inside is a crisp palette of clean arches, white walls, and rows of windows framed in dark-stained wood. The design blends a traditional Tudor style with clean, contemporary lines, a vision that’s not stuffy or overly formal. To achieve this balance, he went so far as to remove the door casings and mold a plain, plastic trim around the jambs.

“It’s an intown house, but there’s a second-home vibe to it,” he adds. “With second homes, people tend to let their hair down more.” Fowler wanted that more casual, creative tone for the everyday, using exposed raw materials such as timber beams to warm up the rooms. The best example of this organic motif is in the master bathroom. The countertop is made of a Sapelli hardwood from Africa, stripped of its bark with a rough, unfinished edge. Its cracks and ridges only enhance its beauty.

The entire interior layout was reconfigured and walls were gutted to improve the flow from room to room. Everything was opened up and aired out, and this is where his experience in construction proved to be invaluable.

He also partnered with Laura Walker on the interior design. “I have always enjoyed working with Laura,” he says. “She and I have a similar approach to design. We both like to contemporize spaces and mix it up, make it interesting. We both appreciate traditional architecture, but prefer it with clean lines.”

Fowler wanted to prove that a contemporary, European look doesn’t have to be cold. On the contrary, its clutter-free simplicity put him at peace, he says, giving him room to decompress.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Fowler got to longing for even more open space, and he and his family recently moved to Bozeman, Montana. However, Fowler continues to expand his residential portfolio here through an alliance with Atlanta’s NCG Architects.

This story originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Atlanta magazine

Real Estate: Their Loss Is Your Gain

Intrigued with the idea of buying a foreclosure, but intimidated by the
red tape and taking on an “as is” property? Veteran intown agency Morris
& Raper Realtors started ForeclosedDeals.com to take some mystery
out of the process. Thanks to the sheer abundance of troubled properties
for sale, buyers are seeing past the stigma and recognizing the value,
says Robert Benware, vice president of the nearly year-old division.
“The fact that a home has gone into foreclosure in no way diminishes its
quality,” he adds, noting that his firm represents mostly bank-owned
new homes rather than resales.

In addition to homes (single-family, condos, and townhouses),
ForeclosedDeals.com represents raw land and developed lots. Benware and
his staff will even help hire contractors to finish projects left
midconstruction. While they do market “loose listings,” or scattered
single properties, they look for subdivisions with multiple

An on-site sales staff and a furnished model home make foreclosures more
attractive, Benware says. For example, in just five weeks, he says they
sold ten out of eleven listings at The Park at Glenns Ridge in
Lawrenceville. The all-brick homes, originally priced around $340,000,
sold for roughly $250,000. Benware currently represents about sixteen
communities in Gwinnett, South Fulton, Cherokee, DeKalb, and intown.

“Atlanta for so long has been a product-driven market,” Benware adds.
Buyers used to snap up new houses, counting on quick profits when they
were ready to sell. Now Atlantans need to look at homes as longer-term
investments, he says. “Ultimately, people buy a home for its use and

Morris & Raper Realtors, 990 Hammond Drive, Suite 710, 770-391-1208,

Sample Deals

Central City

384 Ralph McGill Boulevard

Initial Price:

Current Price:


Condos with skyline views, ten-foot ceilings, hardwood
floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances,
balconies/patios, fitness center, pool

Garden Gate

Off GA 316 and Cedars Road in Lawrenceville

Initial Price:

Current Price:


Craftsman-style ranch and two-story homes with two-car
garages, granite countertops, fireplace, vaulted/tray ceilings

Townview Commons

Highway 92 in Woodstock

Initial Price:

Current Price:


Two- and three-bedroom townhouses with two-car garages,
hardwood floors, granite countertops, pool

Hot Shop: EcoEmporium


It’s not by chance that EcoEmporium, the new earth-friendly boutique in
West Midtown, looks familiar. Owners Carol and Bruce Held hired the
designers behind mall chain Anthropologie to create a calming space
with antique display cases and simple art. Only instead of bohemian
wares, the Helds’ “bazaar of sorts” provides a step-by-step guide to
decreasing your ecological footprint.

Carol, who has a
background in banking and interior design, adopted a green lifestyle
after discovering she was allergic to her husband’s office furniture,
which was sealed with formaldehyde glue. After researching products
such as detergents, dishware, toys, and towels, she decided Atlanta
needed a one-stop shop for everything organic, nontoxic, fairly traded,
repurposed, and recycled. And Brickworks, a renovated warehouse turned
shopping center, was the ideal location.

Catering to home, baby,
and pet, many of EcoEmporium’s goods are made from organic cotton or
bamboo. Check out the Bambu flatware, plates, and bowls, which can be
easily washed and reused; there’s even supersoft loungewear and wedding invitations
made from the woody stems. Kids’ tees with slogans such as “I recycled
my juice box today” and “I didn’t take a bath to save water today” are
hot items. Other whimsical offerings include jewelry made from soda
bottles, bullet casings, bicycle chains, and cut-up credit cards; and
purses constructed from magazines, gum wrappers, recycled felt, and
rubber reclaimed from tractor-trailer inner tubes. The two biggest
sellers, though, are utilitarian staples: diapers and mattresses. The
gDiapers starter kit comes with two pairs of washable cotton pants and
ten flushable refills for $28. For around $3,000, you can get a
queen-size Savvy Rest mattress made from natural rubber, organic
cotton, and pure wool (it repels dust mites!).

The Helds and
their official greeter, Krissie, a rescued border collie mix, hope to
franchise in the future. They also plan to host community classes on
such topics as how to set up your own organic baby nursery.

Vital Statistics:

1000 Marietta Street, Suite 114

Phone: 404-875-5224

Website: theecoemporium.com

Hours:  Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Bargain buys:
finds include reusable glass straws for $5.99 and a four-pack of SKOY
kitchen cloths for $8.95. (Using just one of these bio­degradable
cloths can save fifteen rolls of paper towels.)

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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