UrbanWoods, Frankfort’s newly renovated townhouse community on Wilkinson Boulevard, makes a bold statement with it’s dynamic color palette. The first building is painted in a bright shade of blue, followed by fellow buildings sporting vibrant yellow, orange and purple hues. The colors then repeat. Blue, yellow, orange, purple — all with sunny yellow-painted doors. It is hard not to smile and, when you see them, they are certainly memorable.
Before Danny Strong and Nick Solon of Urbanize and BrokenFork Design bought the eight buildings overlooking the Kentucky River, the complex was in disrepair and considered to be drab by many. Danny says that he and his partner, Nick, saw the potential — the river and a park across the street, Fort Hill immediately behind with hiking trails and downtown Frankfort within walking distance.
“It’s a great location,” Danny commented. “We look for properties that we can put our mark on and make a difference in the area. These apartments were built in 1969 and were well-built by the government, have lots of windows and nice layouts.”
BrokenFork does the design and Urbanize manages the properties according to Danny.
Making a change
Danny and Nick own several properties in Lexington, distinguishable on the outside by their interesting color schemes.
“We do color everywhere and Danny is our color picker,” property manager Lana McKinley explained.
The colors chosen for UrbanWoods were not random. “They were taken from the same color palette as the ‘Frankfort Distilled’ logo. We used the logo and then chose the brightest colors from that palette,” Danny explained. “I really do like color and they also all come from the retro mid-century modern era.”
According to Danny, it was important to do something bold that people could visually see in order to help change the way people think about the property. “If we hadn’t painted the buildings bright, lively colors, it would be really hard to change the perception that this was a former housing project,” he explained.
A new concept in community living
UrbanWoods has 30 apartments with one, two and three bedroom units. “We have a lot of young professionals as tenants,” Lana commented. “Our tenants like that we offer community bicycles and kayaks, community gardens and firepits. And, every apartment has a washer and dryer.”
“All they (tenants) have to do is check out one of the kayaks or bikes and they’re off,” Lana said. “It’s so nice that River View Park is right across the street and Fort Hill is literally in the backyard!”
The spaces have been renovated with concrete counters in the kitchen, easy-to-care-for concrete floors, mid-century modern lighting and new, comfortable HVAC units.
Danny explained that as the owners of UrbanWoods, they practice social entrepreneurship — taking a for-profit business and using it for social good. “We take a percentage of sales and give back to the community. UrbanWoods is a member of the Live to Give program. Every month, $50 of every resident’s rent goes to Woods and Water Land Trust, which works to protect forests and streams in the Lower Kentucky River Watershed.
Residents also receive free adoption from the Franklin County Humane Society and a large discount when renting the onsite UrbanWoods Airbnb rentals.
Danny, a real estate entrepreneur and investor for 20 years, hopes that this UrbanWoods project adds to the energy he sees happening in Frankfort. “We are very open to the community and all the good that’s going on,” he commented. “I really like to use my creativity to bring about positive change in today’s world. There are many needs, so it’s important that we can contribute.”
“It’s a desire to make things better, about taking care of people,” Lana added.
A comment by Nick on the BrokenFork website emphasizes the company’s philosophy — “Our concern is to create a product that represents who we are and has a positive impact on the community.”
In the first blue building, two townhouses are earmarked specifically for Airbnb guests. They have been available for rental since early summer. The decor has clean lines, mid-century modern flair with pops of color and furnishings reminiscent of that era. They are outfitted with comfortable furnishings, well-stocked kitchens for guests and even life vests.
“Our guests say they really like that there are community kayaks and bicycles, too,” Lana commented. “We want them to enjoy all the various activities in Frankfort. Our Airbnb renters have included people coming in to do the Bourbon Trail or for work in Frankfort, among others.”
“It’s very conveniently located. It’s close to the area distilleries, right on the Kentucky River and steps from miles of hiking trails. Plus, it’s an easy walk to the downtown restaurants and shops or to Sig Luscher’s for a beer,” Danny remarked.
The UrbanWoods buildings are 50 years old this year and are in the process of being distinguished with Bluegrass Trust plaques according to Danny. San Francisco’s famous row of late 19th century Victorian houses known as the “Painted Ladies” may have been around much longer than Frankfort’s UrbanWoods, but the newly renovated apartments are providing our own colorful scenery in the capital city of Kentucky.