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Entrepreneur Finds Opportunity in Distressed Hotel Properties

Glenn Hasek

Richard Rubin, Founder and CEO of Repvblik, is being offered 20 to 30 hotels a week. There is a good reason for the calls. Rubin’s company has figured out how to convert a distressed hotel into a profitable one—in the middle of a pandemic. This of course is far more environmentally advantageous than building the same hotel from ground up. I first reported about Richard and his company back in May when his company announced it had almost completed the conversion of a former 423-key Day’s Inn property in Branson, Mo. into apartments. That property, now called Plato’s Cave, has 341 apartments in total that are all occupied. Most are studios (260) with the remainder one-bedrooms. Each has a kitchenette.

Plato’s Cave, located in a central improvement district in Branson, is the largest affordable, workforce-targeted housing project in the United States to be completed entirely without federal funding or tax credits. I guess it had to be that way. Richard said he was turned down about “1,000 times” when he asked for funding.

Richard founded Repvblik LLC with Chris Potterpin of PK housing in Michigan in 2015. They purchased the Days Inn in 2018. It had been closed for about 10 years. The property has reopened in phases since then and now houses folks ranging from Walmart workers to nurses. Tenants pay from $495 to $725, which includes all utilities, free Wi-Fi, parking, and security in a pet-friendly, gated community environment. Tenants typically sign a six or 12-month lease. “Price-wise, we are very competitive in the Branson market,” Richard says.

Space for Day Care, Dog Care & More

Richard told me that what was meeting space on the property has been converted to daycare and there is even dog care available. “We are turning a lot of that space into workspace and micro-storage,” Richard said. Space for a “ghost kitchen” is also a possibility. (A ghost kitchen is a professional kitchen set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals.)

With the successful Plato’s Cave under its belt, funding for additional projects has been easier to get. In fact, Repvblik now has other similar developments under way. “We are busy with deals in Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Florida and California,” Richard says. “We will close two to three deals before the end of the year.” Long term, Repvblik would like to have close to 20,000 apartments.

Converting a distressed property does take patience. Rezoning and other processes can take close to a year.

For Branson, Plato’s Cave has meant not only the revitalization of an empty eyesore but also a jobs creator. “We have had a very positive impact on the Branson community,” Richard says. “We have used local construction crews for two and one-half years and employed hundreds of people. We also have full-time staff.”

Richard says what his company is doing will become a lot more common as more hotels and motels close down. Apartment conversions are also taking place in other real estate sectors.

“I don’t think we are going to run out of markets or stock,” Richard says.

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