1. College Pedigree

After real estate consultants Kyle Wilson and David Williams, principals in Archipelago Investments, moved to the small college town of Amherst, Mass., they switched their focus to development. Several years ago, they recognized a void in the market: no upscale rental housing to appeal to a mix of residents who loved the educational and cultural activities of the walkable downtown—professors; young professionals; and retirees seeking an active, enriching lifestyle.

2. Filling In

Because Wilson and Williams sought a downtown site that would help fulfill Amherst’s 2010 master plan mission of adding housing, they decided to convert the parking lot portion of a restaurant they already owned. The project was their first development venture, so the partners looked nationwide to find a top infill architect. They found it in Holst Architecture in Portland, Ore., a city known for cutting-edge, quality infill design. Holst is also known for its contextual savvy and budget-consciousness.

3. Old and New

To appeal to the sophisticated renters the developers envisioned moving into Boltwood Place, project architect Alan W. Jones designed the building to fit its New England vernacular of white clapboard and red brick buildings, yet gave it a crisp modern pop. He clad it with white painted boards and red cedar, and used wood trim sparingly. Inside, he provided as much rentable space as possible and cut back on public areas. All units have loft-style living areas, private bedrooms and bathrooms, and 9½-foot ceilings.

4. Sustainable Gain

To gain LEED Gold certification—expected to be awarded soon—Jones chose low-E glass and more panes on the south side for solar gain, plus white oak flooring and cabinets, low-water fixtures, recycled steel, efficient furnaces and water heaters, low-VOC materials, and 2½ inches of rigid foam insulation for a tight envelope. Pads underneath the floors attenuate sound. “This was important to distinguish our product, attract renters, and reduce turnover,” Wilson says. A shuttle bus runs between the five area colleges.

5. Top Grades

Despite its higher than normal area rents—$1,500 to $2,700—the building’s 11 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath units and one 625-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath apartment were fully leased at opening. There’s also a waiting list. The partners are developing similar projects close by and plan to pursue additional college towns nationally. Jones is pleased with the results. “We nailed the concept of providing urban living in a small town where there was screaming demand,” he says. —Barbara Ballinger