Case Study: How Capital Improvements Increased Rents and Decreased Move-outs at Whitnall Park Apartments

“To improve or not improve? That is the question that DMG and our landlord clients often find ourselves pondering. In today’s competitive, supply-constrained multifamily rental market, the answer is often yes. Whitnall Park Apartments is the ideal example of a property that did extensive capital investments and is now reaping the benefits. DMG managed the process from vision to fruition.   

What is Whitnall? 

Whitnall Park Apartments is a 480-unit garden-style community in Franklin, Wisconsin. The property was built in two phases in the 1970s and borders Whitnall Park, a 600-acre park with a golf course, nature center, hiking trails, botanic gardens, etc.  Located only fifteen minutes from Milwaukee, Whitnall Park Apartments attracts residents with a diverse source of income who want the convenience of a large city with the amenities of a suburban environment. 

What was done 

DMG began managing Whitnall in 2014, and in 2019 presented a repositioning proposal including extensive renovation and a rebranding of the property. DMG worked closely with Whitnall’s ownership and an architect to determine the scope of work and how to transform this traditional courtyard building into an amenity rich apartment community. 

The renovation involved an update and expansion of existing spaces making them more resident friendly, more comfortable with easier access and an investment to create new community spaces. There was significant research done throughout the planning process to determine how to incorporate energy saving ideas, safety/ security of residents and how to achieve the client’s goals. 

We added a clubhouse space that residents are now able to use for events, work during the day or just hang out. Additionally, we upgraded the fitness center, hot tub and saunas. We also updated the Whitnall office, improving the space for the in-house management team. DMG works hard to ensure residents always have the latest conveniences and this included adding Amazon Hub lockers to the package room for residents as part of this renovation. 

Investing in beautifying the building, we started from the inside out of the property. This included significant updates to the building’s exterior including exterior siding, paint as well as renovated interior hallways that includes vinyl floor, painting and new light fixtures. There was also a modernization of the building that needed to happen, for example installing smart locks on the apartments and lobby doors.  

Whitnall benefits from ample green space, a key amenity that residents seek in their apartment communities today. However, the spaces weren’t reaching their potential. While Whitnall had a pool, this renovation enabled us to update it to resort quality pool and furniture and it is now a destination for residents throughout the summer. Additionally, understanding the needs of our residents, we added a playground and grilling stations.  Most of the renovations for the exterior and community amenities took place from 2020 to 2022. Additionally, during this time and through last year we have continued to upgrade apartments so now approximately 35 percent of the property is a new upgrade.   

How was it done? 

A multi-year renovation that touches all parts of a building is a big project. DMG’s team is skilled with experience to lead projects like Whitnall from idea to reality. Working closely with the team at the onset, DMG ensures there is a clear scope with rationale for improvements that will make a concrete difference. The entire process is stewarded by DMG’s Construction Manager who navigates local contractors, permits, etc. and partners with on-site management to ensure that current residents have as seamless experience as possible.  

“While Whitnall’s renovation was complicated with COVID in 2020, I was able to work closely with all contractors and vendors to ensure we could return to task as quickly as was safely possible in 2020,” said James Minnie, DMG’s Construction Manager.  

“This focus enabled us to continue making progress and ultimately complete the primary projects by summer of 2022.”  

New Brand with New Look 

In addition to undertaking an ambitious construction effort, DMG also rebranded the property, changing the name from Whitnall Pointe to Whitnall Park Apartments, evoking the extraordinary park after which it was originally named.  To achieve the rebranding, we created a new logo, replaced the property’s monument and interior directional signage, and updated the property website.  The park entrance that is contingent to the property was also beautified as was the property’s landscaping to emphasize the connection to the park.  

Impact on Property 

The rehab project is an outstanding success. Apartment rents have been increased between $250 and $300 per month.  Vacancies have also plummeted and moveouts have decreased 15 percent since 2019.  The property was able to achieve a 100% leased percentage going into the off season.  The increase in GPR was achieved while a $65/unit/month RUBS program was simultaneously introduced.  These revenue gains have been increased all while increasing the quality of the building’s residents resulting in reduced bad debt and collection loss. 

Renovating Whitnall transformed the property, enabling us to engage with new potential residents and change the profile of the building,” said Roger Daniel, President and Founder of DMG. “Whitnall was a stable dependable property in 2019, but the impact of the renovations have catapulted Whitnall into a new class of apartments and enabled the community to align with current industry trends for residents.” 

Always looking to enhance 

While the major capital projects for Whitnall are completed, DMG is always looking to enhance the resident experience and work with ownership to determine what updates are regularly needed. In 2024, DMG and Whitnall ownership will add intercoms, greatly improving the resident experience as residents can now let guests and/or deliveries in the buildings remotely from their phone. Additionally, understanding the value of optimal green space, DMG will be updating the old dog park and replacing it with a larger, nicer space equipped with agility equipment.