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From dilapidated to deluxe: abandoned hotel rooms now apartments for millennials

Last August the former Crossland Economy Studios at Patchen Village was a wretched place to be: Filled with trash and the battered scraps of ancient decor, with one unit giving off the stench of repeated urination onto the floor.

A Google reviewer summed it up: “Sorry there is no rating less than one star.”

Lexington developer Norwood Cowgill, who had used the 30,000-square-foot building on Gribbin Drive to launch his StudioPlus extended-stay brand in 1986, bought back the building. He had a sentimental attachment to it, he said, and still saw its potential as infill housing.

Cowgill thought it could be renovated into apartments targeted at millennials and others who don’t need a lot of space. And he had the perfect millennial project manager for what would become The Studios at Patchen: his grandson, 24-year-old J. Carson Baughman.

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For what Cowgill says is slightly more than $1 million, the building has gone from dilapidated to deluxe.

Now the structure is sleek and bright, with a coffee bar and gathering space. In the hallway is a filtered water station. The units themselves are small but filled with the big amenities: granite counters in kitchen and bath, stainless appliances, espresso-colored cabinets, a “paw spa” pet washing area and dog park, LED lighting, fitness center and laundromat with an app that lets residents know when their laundry is ready.

Outside there will be a grilling area and fire pit with Adirondack-style chairs.

The complex is across the street from the shopping center where LaRosa’s, First Watch and Skyline Chili will soon be open.

Rents for a basic studio floor plan of 338 feet are $695; $895 for a 386-foot unit. So far 11 leases have been signed for the 60 available apartments: 53 of the smaller units, six of the larger, and one with a separate bedroom. Rent include utilities, cable and WiFi.

Cowgill took the StudioPlus chain public in 1995, and merged it with Extended Stay in 1997. In 1998, he and Extended Stay ended their business relationship. Cowgill Properties manages a variety of properties including The Reserve at Merrick, Cove Lake Village and Belmont Run.

The millennial market is rich territory for apartment developers. Axiometrics, a national research firm, says that more than half of the U.S. new apartment development since 2012 have been in the studio and one-bedroom category. Millennials are the generation born between 1982 and 2004.

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Pew Research reports that millenials are expected to overtake Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) in population in 2019 as the number of millennials hits 73 million, while the number of Boomers declines to 72 million.

At the Studios at Patchen Village, Cowgill finds the “paw spa” location — the place where dogs can be washed — particularly ironic.

When he first opened the building, the room was a sauna — for people.

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman

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