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ORLANDO-It took an outsider to beat the locals in being first to put up a fast-track apartment complex to satisfy strong renter demand for Downtown shelter.

Atlanta-based Post Properties Inc. spotted the niche two years ago and built out 244 units before the competition had dried its blueprints. All the apartments and 18,000 sf of commercial/retail space at Post Parkside are 100% leased.

Now the rest of the pack–Echelon, Zom and Lincoln–is racing to finish units the developers calculate will be leased up in short order as well. The reason: professionals and young couples are demanding and willing to pay for a Downtown address.

Rents for some two-bedroom, two-bath units may be going for $2,500 a month. Three-bedroom penthouse suites could command up to $3,500. One-bedroom units will probably average $800 a month.

Unlike San Francisco, San Diego or New York where atmospheric-tiered rents don’t shock anymore, the new Downtown Orlando numbers are unprecedented for most conservative-minded Orlando citizens. Still, a new breed of renter who craves a Downtown ambience, is willing to pay the price.

“If you work Downtown and need to be near the new courthouse, the clubs, the artistic community and the parks, then paying the going rent to live there becomes another justifiable cost of doing business here,” Accord Industries manager Scott Vordeburg tells GlobeSt.com. Vordeburg lives Downtown.

The first 40 units at the 303-unit Echelon at Cheney Place on North Orange Avenue are scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1. Echelon Residential of St. Petersburg, FL is the developer. Average monthly rents will be $675 for a 500-sf efficiency to $1,800 for a 1,600-sf, three-bedroom, two-bath unit.

Echelon is also planning a year-end ground-breaking on a sister project, the 244-unit Echelon at Uptown. The site is on the northeast corner of North Orange Avenue and Marks Street.

Trailing Echelon are Zom Communities and Lincoln Property Co. Zom’s 22-story, 200-unit Waverly at 322 E. Central Blvd., just west of Post Parkside, won’t be surfacing until September 2001. The 365-unit Lincoln at Delaney Place at Rosalind Avenue and South Street also carries a year-end 2001 completion tag.

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