By Janice Brown
Chicagoans struggle through the freezing temps and icy roads in winter, because we know just how awesome summers in Chicago are. Recently, we got to watch as a few locals lived it up on Lake Michigan and partied on rooftop decks on Bravo’s hit reality show 100 Days of Summer. Rising in popularity after the debut of the show, cast member and real estate developer Jay Michael is working harder than ever.
While Michael may have stirred up trouble on the show, in person he is kind and generous, and his passion for community is infectious. We sat down to talk with him about his French Bulldog—and company mascot—Louise, as well as the unique way he is merging his passion for business and animals.
TAILS: You are a partner and co-founder of FLATS Chicago, which rehabs historic properties, creating units you define as “high quality, amenity rich, authentic environments at approachable rents.” What was your vision when you began?
JAY MICHAEL: When my partner and I began looking at these deals, I thought, there’s something we can do to make all these buildings kind of uniform and to make them play off each other, and make them offer a lifestyle and community to the people who live in them. I just didn’t know at the time what it was. At the time it was driven by making the spaces all look the same, and then it kind of evolved.
How do you see pets fitting into your mission?
When I was trying to think of a logo for FLATS, which was our first branded project, I was trying to think of something everyone would relate with. For some reason, I thought of either a piece of fruit or an animal. Apple’s already taken the fruit logo. Then I thought, what about a dog? I happen to relate to French Bulldogs. To me, they’re like relaxed, sweet little lovers. They want everyone to love them—they don’t want to fight with anyone. So I decided to make it a French Bulldog.
Tell me about your dog, Louise.
She is two years old, and a really easy dog. I’ve had a lot of dogs, and she’s the easiest. My last dog was a rescued white French Bulldog, and I will always have a white French Bulldog. To me they’re just the best. I love them.
What’s your position on renting with pets?
We’ve always been pet-friendly. We think everyone loves dogs, and if you don’t, we’re probably not going to be the place for you. I don’t know too many other management companies that just across the board allow dogs. And we don’t say no to any cats, either.
Is there an extra pet fee or deposit?
Deposits don’t work. We don’t take any deposits at all—we don’t keep anyone’s money. We’d rather be careful owners than dangling money over a tenant’s head. It’s not for us. We normally charge an additional pet fee to the monthly rent, which in our opinion justifies having to maintain the unit after that person leaves. Dogs will be dogs.
What restrictions do you have for pets?
None. We tell people when they move in that it’s a good neighbor building. Everyone knows everyone. We don’t have a size limit. The pet fee is priced based on size brackets; it ranges from about $20 to $50. We’re one of the few places that allows dogs in all of the units, not just one floor, or one type of unit.
What inspired you to waive a portion of the pet fee for rescued pets?
It’s a way for me to act on getting people to want to do the right thing. I think it’s also a good community builder. We may be losing money, but we want to encourage people to adopt dogs.
What other pet amenities do you have planned?
We have no indoor space scheduled now, but we are building outdoor dog runs and we’re open to dog wash areas. One of the things on the wish list for us is to have dog-walking built in. That kind of stuff would be really fun for us. I bet you when we have a couple of thousand apartments on the North Side, at least 300 of those people pay dog walkers every day.
What does Louise do for you that no one else does?
She’s the only person … or only ‘thing’ in the world that can give me a ton of attitude. I have zero-tolerance for attitude––I don’t give anyone attitude and I don’t want any attitude. But she gives me attitude and I like it. I deal with it. I actually think it’s really funny.
And I can say, my mother is not a dog person, and this dog has made her a dog person. This dog has touched her in a way that no dog ever has.
To learn more about Jay Michael and all that he is up to, visit JayMichael.co
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