The Property Story

The stately brick facade of Oaks Union Depot in the Lowertown neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota blends in with the surrounding blocks of historic buildings. Late 19th century architecture dominates this urban village on the outskirts of downtown Saint Paul, and the new apartment building was designed to fit right in.

But to fill new units when they opened in April of 2018, Oaks Union Depot would have to do more than blend in with the neighborhood. It would need to offer a living experience that stood out—accommodating modern lifestyles with luxurious amenities against a historic backdrop.

The Challenge: Standing Out While Blending In

The family-owned Oaks Properties LLC has been developing and redeveloping properties since the 1970’s. They’ve seen neighborhoods transformed over decades, but their focus on the community experience of residential spaces remains constant.

The Oaks Union Depot would be a new addition to a larger community that values preservation and historical charm. But renters moving to Lowertown are also seeking modernity. The last decade has seen a resurgence for Lowertown as old warehouses, and bank and railroad buildings are converted into galleries, breweries, and restaurants. Today, Lowertown is a walkable, vibrant neighborhood where the past meets the present.

“The way technology is going, we’ll all have smart homes in the future.”

Cole Keusel, Director of Technology at Oaks Properties.

With two floors of 70 one and two-bedroom units, Oaks Union Depot was looking for a way to impress renters who want customization in the space they call home. The communal amenities, like the dog run, game room, rooftop deck, and heated garage were obvious perks. The interior of each unit would need to match that elevated standard of living.

A Solution: The “Wow Factor” of Customizable Stories

Oaks Properties chose to outfit each of the 70 units with IOTAS smart apartment technology, making Oaks Union Depot the very first building in Saint Paul to offer this transformative package of features. Renters have digital control of their locks, thermostat, lighting, and outlets through the IOTAS app on their phone—and also through voice command.

“The way technology is going, we’ll all have smart homes in the future,” says Cole Keusel, Director of Technology at Oaks Properties. “But today, it’s still a big ‘wow’ factor. One of the most interesting things to people was that you could connect [IOTAS] to Alexa or Google Home.”

IOTAS was a game-changer, even before the first renter moved in. Keusel could use the system to set vacant units at a certain temperature with the lights off when no one was there, then adjust the temperature and turn the lights on in the units he was showing. IOTAS allows users to save a combination of custom settings, called stories. Once the settings for showing vacant units was set, Keusel could simply use that story again and again as people came through and started signing leases.

“I could set it and forget it,” he says of the “story” feature. Units filled quickly and renters were equally impressed. The IOTAS hub is always connected to the building’s dedicated network infrastructure; tenants simply download the app and start setting their stories on move-in day.

Industry Standard Lease-Up

12-15 months

Oaks Projected Lease-Up

12 months

Lease-Up with IOTAS

6 months

Keusel says the whole system was easy to demonstrate with the app on his phone. When renters moved in, it was easy for them to use IOTAS settings to transform their new apartment into a home that worked with their lifestyle.

Oaks Union Depot opened on April 1, 2018, and by January, 2019, capacity had stabilized, beating their yearly rental projections. After seeing how the feature accelerated the process of filling the building, Oaks Properties LLC has decided to install IOTAS throughout Oaks Minnehaha Longfellow, a new residential property in Minneapolis, set to open in early 2020.