In 1961, during the time in which the young and single were migrating to the suburbs of Cincinnati, Neil Bortz and Marvin Rosenberg saw an opportunity to create a few exciting new apartments in old buildings at the top of Mt. Adams, then a declining inner-city neighborhood overlooking downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River. When the properties quickly leased at top rates, Bortz and Rosenberg realized that property management and development was a sustainable business and Towne Properties was born. The company has since grown into a national brand with four district offices in Cincinnati and satellite offices in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, northern Kentucky, Naples, Florida and Indianapolis.
As Towne Properties adjusted to changing markets, the company began diversifying its investments. Along with residential properties, Towne Properties started developing office buildings, and retail and recreational properties including two tennis clubs, two golf courses and a marina. “Eventually we got into condos just like everybody else,” says Brian Bortz, President of Towne Properties and son of founder Neil Bortz. “Now we’re back to our bread and butter which is looking for well-located, in-fill apartment sites to develop, own and manage long-term.”
Taking on the family business
Being involved in a family business has its challenges. Bortz has been part of the venture since he was a child. “I was laying sod on the jobsites when I was 8 years old,” recalls Bortz. “I don’t even know if there is something I would rather do because I’ve never done anything else. You juggle the ups and downs of owning and operating your own business but ultimately I enjoy working with my dad and my brother.”
Towne Properties manages more than 1 million square feet of office and retail space and over 80,000 apartment and condo association units. The Management Division has a staff of 800 full-time employees. Towne Development Division employs 25 associates. “We like to stay lean and mean,” says Bortz. As a Master Developer, Towne starts with a market driven concept, selects the sites, designs, estimates, finances, permits, constructs, leases or sells and manages long-term. “We do sub out all of the trades, some to the same folks we have been working with over forty years, but we act as owners and general contractors,” says Bortz.
A growing portfolio
Towne Properties constantly has several projects in the works. The company recently completed two in-fill properties: one in Newport, Kentucky, and the other in the oldest neighborhood in Cincinnati, Columbia-Tusculum. “They are walkable, in-fill, young professional type of communities,” Bortz explains. “We’ve got about five or so similar projects that we’re looking to get off the ground.” These projects involve new construction and will take place in Ohio and Kentucky. “Anytime we make a capital investment we like to make sure that we are familiar with the community that we are working in. So right now everything that we are looking at in terms of new construction is in our region.”
Bortz describes the recent University Square at the Loop, also known as U Square, as one of the most challenging jobs in his twenty years with the company. He also reports that after the initial developer left the project, the University of Cincinnati turned to Towne Properties to complete the job. U Square is a LEED certified mixed-use project, covering two-city blocks between McMillan and Calhoun Streets across from the University of Cincinnati’s main campus. The project consists of 80,000 square feet of retail space, home to more than a dozen retail and service shops and a dozen restaurants and pubs, 40,000 sq. ft. of office space leased to the University of Cincinnati, 161 market rate apartments, and two 375 car free-standing garages. U Square was recently awarded Best Student Housing by the National Apartment Association.
Representing the company
Bortz has taken on the personal challenge of maintaining the reputation of the company that his father built. “I think U Square reflects the culture of our company and our mission to make a contribution to the neighborhood in which we work,” says Bortz. “We want to fit into the communities that we are building in. We don’t just build an apartment complex, we build a neighborhood. I take great pride at looking at some of the beautiful things that my father built back in the ’60’s and ’70’s.”
Looking into the future, Towne Properties plans to continue to grow its owned and managed portfolios, which involves expanding the geographical footprint of its management company. “The short-term goal is to grow the management team,” says Bortz. “The long-term goal will be to introduce ourselves to new cities, become familiar with them and then either acquire or build new neighborhoods.”
While Towne Properties expands its reach, the company will continue to strive to create well-built communities throughout the United States.
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