97 mostly smaller, cheaper apartments adjacent to a workplace

As the BOLD Cowork Sarasota’s apartment complex races toward an August completion, the entrepreneurial development company staged a party last week to generate concrete interest in leasing a unit. That worked out quite well.

The live-work-play-in-one-place concept — a siren call for millennials — commands broad attention among economic development teams who value young professionals. One essential element often missing is nearby affordable housing for rising entrepreneurs, techies and innovators.

BOLD seeks to solve that challenge with a five-story, 97-unit apartment complex complete with such amenities as a pool with fire pits out on the deck, an urban garden and a fitness center, all on the third floor. The $14.5 million project, located between Fruitville Road and Second Street and between Goodrich and Adelia avenues, is only a block off Main Street, downtown’s social hub.

Entrepreneur Jesse Biter, BOLD building and Lofts developer, put a broader perspective on the issue of downtown housing affordability.

“The apartment building, to me, is proof of a concept,” he said. “Density in our town is 50 units an acre. That's 435,000 square feet that only 50 people can live in. It's no wonder our downtown condos can only be afforded by the ultra-wealthy.

“By building smaller units that cost less to rent, I expect to show our city that having young working professionals as part of our downtown community is a good thing.”

He’s off to a fast start — with only Facebook, Instagram other social media and email blasts promoting last Wednesday’s party, which figures for a techie like Biter.

Prospective tenants reserved 24 BOLD Lofts units at the party, making their apartment selection when their lottery number came up. The mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units provided plenty of choices, as seen during a tour of the building Tuesday with Stephanie Soffer, BOLD’s operations manager, and Ben Bradley, an assistant superintendent with CORE Construction.

The complex should be complete by early August. “We’re going to finish on time,” Bradley said, with crews working Saturdays to make up for some delays. Soffer said the move-in date is Sept. 1, leaving some wiggle room for the unexpected.

With interior framing complete, the size of the units belies the stated dimensions — which range from 570 square feet for a studio to 1,845-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath unit spread across two floors. Rents start at $1,240 for the studios and rise to $3,150 for the three-bedroom apartments.

The studio apartments only seem small by the square footage; there’s a space outside the living room big enough for a bed and dresser but it’s not closed off from the rest of the unit. Even the galley kitchen appears relatively spacious with room for several cooks. The bathroom sports a double vanity, surely an attraction for couples.

The one-bedroom model proved to be the most popular with tenant reservations, Soffer said. Four floor plans are available in sizes from 692 to 756 square feet, with rents from $1,458 to $1,700 per month.

By eliminating a commute, tenants will have more time for other pursuits — like frequenting the restaurants, clubs and cultural offerings along Main Street and elsewhere downtown.

“More and more of us are starting to realize that wasting our life away in traffic isn't a good use of time,” said Biter, who started developing software in his youth in his parents’ basement.

Indeed, who wouldn’t rather enjoy a sidewalk cafe and savory drink than a car's interior?

BOLD Cowork Sarasota is doing quite well, too, with 80 percent of the space leased and 120 members representing more than 60 companies. The rates are incredibly low for downtown office space. A community membership plan is $50 a month for three days of use from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. sharing tables with others. Coworking memberships are $150 for the same hours but with everyday access. A reserved desk in a private office goes for $350 a month, while a private office starts at $700, both with 24-hour access.

Florida Trend’s Business Florida, the official publication of Enterprise Florida, lists three business incubators in the Sarasota-Manatee area, Spark Growth and Station 2 Innovation in Bradenton and HuB in Sarasota. Oddly enough, BOLD is not on that list — surely an oversight.

BOLD apartments have a purpose beyond affordability.

“BOLD's mission is to bring like-minded people together in order to create chance meetings from which amazing things are created,” Biter said. “By having like-minded people live, work and play in the same complex, it increases the chance they will be part of the next big thing.”