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C Street Flats riding the micro-living trend

Klingbeil Capital Management, a San Francisco-based company has developed a 2-acre property at 350 Municipal Square into a mixed-use development that will bring 142 flat-style apartments into the city's designated arts district on C Street.
Klingbeil Capital Management, a San Francisco-based company has developed a 2-acre property at 350 Municipal Square into a mixed-use development that will bring 142 flat-style apartments into the city's designated arts district on C Street. (Photo by Nicole Munchel, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

After delays ranging from bad weather to the delivery of granite countertops, Laurel's newest apartment community, C Street Flats, finally welcomed its first wave of 31 tenants.

The expansive, three-and-a-half-building project, straddling B and C Streets, lies immediately north of Main Street and adjacent to Riverfront Park. For decades, the property served as City Hall and the Laurel police station.

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C Street Flats' developer, Columbus, Ohio-based Klingbeil Capital Management Ltd., is a 56-year-old company that also owns Emerson at Cherry Lane apartments and handles projects nationwide such as single-family housing, student housing, medical offices and self-storage facilities.

Of the 142 total units, 122 offer one-bedroom, said Allison Webb, the project manager. Highlighting manageable, one-bedroom units, she explained, is riding a trend known as micro-living, which is attracting many single, young professionals who prefer living in quarters that come in at under 500 square feet.

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A standard one-bedroom one-bath unit at C Street Flats measures 540 square feet and costs between $1,240 and $1,260 a month.

"It's huge in Seattle," and has caught fire in Washington, Webb said. "People are not used to the concept in Laurel. It's efficient. They don't need to live beyond their means. It's DC living without the DC price tag."

The larger, two-bedroom two-bath model, The Grand, measures 798-square feet and costs $1,610 per month. Eligibility for all specific units is based on annual incomes ranging from $42,300 to $59,400.

Each apartment has electric appliances, 9-1/2-foot ceilings, granite kitchen countertops and washers and dryers, and some units have balconies for extra cost.

Other amenities in the works include a coffee shop open to residents and the public; a fitness center; and an outdoor lounge area where residents can meet, greet and eat. There are also plans to apply for a liquor license.

The original plansfor the apartment community called for an outdoor swimming pool, which the city approved. Butthe developer decidedagainst it, Webb said, because an outdoor pool would only be used for three months a year. The developer replaced the pool with a community center that included an outdoor grill, which can be used more.

Webb said the name "flats" was the brainchild of the developer's regional manager, whose husband is from England. Flats are usually a set of rooms on one floor in part of a larger building. Webb said more and more American apartment houses are getting the moniker.

Webb said the format at the apartments is simple: "There's no oversize furniture; they mount their televisions; they make it work and it's very cute."

More pedestrians on Main

Webb said several of the first arrivals have moved from Pennsylvania and are busy familiarizing themselves with the Laurel area.

In addition to its proximity to the MARC station, "they like the fact that it has two dead ends. There's no traffic coming back and forth."

Nicole Davis was part of a recent tour of one of the buildings. With tape measure in hand, the lifelong Columbia resident declared she "likes the teeny concept, the small space."

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The new development is being greeted with open arms by the business community as well. Owners are hoping that the flood of newcomers to the neighborhood will enliven pedestrian traffic and generate sales.

The bright red awning attached to the Laurel Meat Market at Main and C streets is clearly visible from the nearby apartments. Brian Miles, son of owner Bill Miles, is excited.

"It should bring more people to the area," he said. "I've seen a few new faces. I would think they [the residents] would walk here or stop here on the way home, run in and get a chicken."

Miles has placed a flier in the store window that promotes the new apartments community.

As for Main Street itself, Miles believes it needs something more than a glut of beauty shops.

"It will never be Annapolis, but you never know," he said.

Webb said she would like to see a broad selection of "trendy restaurants" on Main Street that are not part of a chain.

While Miles doesn't believe parking will become a problem along C Street, Missy Allen has questions. Allen, who has operated All En salon on C Street for 16 years, said she doesn't want to see an overflow of parking resulting from the new apartments. Parking is legal on either side of the street from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Sundays or holidays.

Allen said "I've never had parking problems. If the cafe does well, what am I going to do with those cars? It's going to be a mess."

Allen is also worried about "my Friday morning ladies" who arrive for their appointments. Many of them show up on walkers. "Their daughters or sons bring them and they double park."

Webb said she doesn't believe parkingwill be an issue, given the reduced size of the units for rent and that residents are restricted to one car per person.

"These are small units. If you're going to have a party in one of these, your guests won't be able to move around," she said.

Deb Randall, who has owned Venus Theatre on C Street for a decade, agreed with Allen that parking may become a serious concern. One proposal, she noted, would be to "assign parking, to have some respect to the small business owners who have really sacrificed" along the street.

Although no one from the new apartments has come to see her 52nd production "Dry Bones Rising," Randall is optimistic.

"I think what we're going to get is an influx of people who have a literary interest," Randall said. "There's a new, vibrant energy coming in. Arts can be the center of economic development."

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