WaterWalk, Rockford Development Join Forces to Create Hotel-Apartment Hybrid Properties

WaterWalk Hotel Apartments has entered into another partnership, this time with Rockford Development Group, to bring eight hotel-apartment properties to four U.S. markets.
WaterWalk Wichita property

WaterWalk Apartments in Wichita, Kan.

Wichita, Kan.—WaterWalk Hotel Apartments, known for its hybrid hotel-apartment properties, has signed a $150 million deal with Rockford Development Group to develop eight WaterWalk properties. The properties will be coming to San Antonio, Denver, Dallas and Austin, with construction for the first property schedule for April of this year.

The fifth national brand of Jack DeBoer, an entrepreneur and founder of Residence Inn, Summerfield Suites, Candlewood Suites, Value Place, among others, WaterWalk is partnering with Rockford Development, led by Paul Roberts of Rockford and hotel industry veteran Rob Mossburg. Rockford Construction was also named the preferred builder for the WaterWalk corporate properties and franchise system.

“Rockford provides two roles; first as a strong franchise partner with experience and capabilities to develop multi-market projects across the U.S. Secondly, as a builder, Rockford is an experienced, scale contractor completing hundreds of projects for multiple clients across the U.S. This type of experience makes Rockford a great partner to rollout WaterWalk,” Jon Wohlfert, president of WaterWalk International, told MHN.

This partnership, however, isn’t the first introduction of WaterWalk properties. The company launched its first property in Wichita in November 2014, and recently made a $100 million deal with U.K.-based investment firm Henley to develop five new WaterWalk franchises in Albany, N.Y.; Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla. Construction on the Fort Lauderdale property is slated to begin March 16 and the company is also working on projects in Denver; Tulsa, Okla.; Raleigh, N.C.; Louisville, Ky.; Minneapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; and Chicago.

Some might be wondering how this hybrid model works. As Wohlfert explained to MHN, “WaterWalk offers the best of a hotel and an apartment. The physical product includes one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with services. Half of the apartments are furnished with the amenities of an upscale, extended-stay hotel. The other half of the apartments are unfurnished with services. For example, services included in the rent are great internet, 300 channels of DirecTV and a DVR, all utilities, a gym membership, and twice a week the team comes to your apartment and picks up your trash.”

Jon Wohlfert, President, WaterWalk

Jon Wohlfert, President, WaterWalk International

He added that unique benefits of this model for guest include more space, 24/7 staffing, complementary breakfast and other hotel-like amenities, while owners and investors enjoy the returns and “the ability to build in markets that are locked up by other brands.”

WaterWalk decided to bring eight new properties to four markets in particular after extensive research, with a focus on attracting companies needing corporate housing.

The company combined the work of The Highland Group—an expert in extended stay and corporate apartment industries—and its institutional knowledge of the markets from its previous brands (Residence Inn, Summerfield Suites, etc.), Wohlfert said. “[We] prioritized the top 36 markets for a WaterWalk. These ‘top markets’ have strong corporate extended-stay demand derived from high concentrations of Class A office and corporate headquarters. The inherent need for corporate housing results from business-related activities such as relocation, projects and training.”

WaterWalk properties seem to be attracting this target, with features like a national sales team and support staff available onsite, and flexibility in lengths of stay, as several Fortune 1000 companies are already renting from their Witchita location.

Photos courtesy of Gregory FCA