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Noteworthy

Azul Apartments Bringing Anything But Blues To Downtown Stuart

The dream many share of living in the heart of quaint and historic downtown Stuart is edging closer to reality.

Azul Apartments—which recently celebrated a roof-topping ceremony and provided hardhat tours of the progress—anticipates completion in June 2019. Spanning 1.6 acres of downtown mere yards from the fountain and iconic 18-foot-tall sailfish sculpture by world-renowned artist Geoffrey C. Smith, the 49-apartment complex marks the fruition of an initiative the Stuart City Commission started five years ago.

“Everyone loves the energy and charm of downtown Stuart,” said Stuart Mayor Kelli Glass Leighton. “City commissions past and present understand that the best way to support and sustain its success—especially during the slower summer months—is with more people living downtown year-around.”

After purchasing the property in 2013 for $1.5 million, the city leased the land to various vendors and debated future uses—including a hotel or additional parking—before seeking input from prospective developers.

The process led the city to New Urban Communities, which is well respected for its creative role in revitalizing urban areas in Delray Beach, Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach.

The exterior of Azul Apartments.

“We take the time to get to know a community rather than imposing our own preconceived notions of what we think should be built on a particular piece of property,” said Tim Hernandez, principal of New Urban Communities. “Urban development is about identifying and enhancing a city’s sense of place—not competing with it. Stuart has a wonderful, warm urban environment and a strong sense of local history situated on a beautiful body of water. With Azul, we wanted to make the most of those attributes.”

Conducting an in-depth market analysis that included a third-party market study as well as focus groups with local REALTORS, New Urban Communities determined the best use of the property was apartments. Whereas condominiums may serve as second homes, apartments reliably and quickly attract residents—especially, Hernandez said, if the amenities and style are appropriately suited to the area.

Featuring high ceilings and gourmet island kitchens, the assortment of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will range in size from 800 to over 1,500-square-feet. And the three-story, pet-friendly community’s amenities will include a club room, pool, fitness center and private patios and balconies—some overlooking the fountain, historic downtown and the St. Lucie River. New sidewalks, street trees and parallel parking will surround the site.

“Azul provides a great new component to the growing array of downtown housing options,” said John Gonzalez, president of the Martin County REALTORS of the Treasure Coast. “While our organization places a high priority on advancing homeownership, we understand the unique challenges of attracting residency in an urban area. The right type of rentals makes a difference—and Azul achieves it.”

It spells relief for local business, too, said Bill Moore, owner of Kilwins Chocolates and Ice Cream and president of the Downtown Business Association of Stuart.

The interior of Azul.

“Bringing potential year-around residents to downtown Stuart will be phenomenal,” Moore said. “Summers are nothing like they were 20 years ago when we opened as the popularity’s grown, but it does slow down so we welcome new traffic to downtown.”

The addition of Azul Apartments plays an essential role in the emerging downtown housing market, said David Dyess, city manager. Additional projects include Seminole Bluff, which offers 20 units starting at $1.1 million, and River House Stuart, which offers 15 condos and five townhouses starting at $850,000.

“That’s what we really appreciate about Azul,” Dyess said. “The quality is certainly there but it also ensures a balance of housing options is available, and that’s what will really benefit the city in the immediate future as well as over the long-term.”