A more sophisticated renter is changing the face of ltifamily design. This renter seeks convenience, state-of-the-art amenities, and luxury interiors commonly found in single-family homes. Multifamily developers can successfully appeal to this renter-by-choice market that is willing to pay for exceptional floor plan design and five-star luxuries.
At the same time, challenges created by the rising cost of land, diminishing land resources, and an increase in redevelopment districts are forcing developers from California to New Jersey to deal with smaller sites and look for new ways to achieve higher densities.
These factors have produced a clear-cut trend across America. Architects and developers are planning new communities that will create a sense of place for residents and their families. Both urban and suburban communities continue to include neo-traditional planning elements that encourage social gatherings and pedestrian traffic. Pedestrian-only promenades, enhanced by detailed streetscapes, make communities walkable, while town centers and village squares serve as focal points. Urban parks and open green spaces also are located throughout the development and help reduce the dense feel, while further promoting a sense of community.
The densities of these communities will typically range from 40 to 70 dwelling units per acre, with the average size of the site ranging from two acres to six acres. Through careful planning, architects and developers have the opportunity to achieve these densities using four-story wood frame construction instead of turning to mid- or high-rise construction.
The current trend and most cost-effective approach to wood frame for high-density is a concept that uses an above-grade, multi-level parking structure, which is strategically hidden from street view. This attractive alternative requires less time to construct than subterranean parking because apartments can be built simultaneously with the garage. As a result, units are ready for occupancy months sooner. In addition, an above-grade structure provides residents with the opportunity to park on the level on which they live and access their homes without the use of stairs or an elevator. This added convenience allows developers to attain premium rents.
Finally, regardless of urban or suburban site location, developers are taking advantage of opportunities to turn high-density projects into diversified mixed-use communities by including retail and commercial components such as restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, and convenience stores into the ground level of the community. The integration of these mixed-uses not only adds vibrant flavor to the community but also provides an added bonus for the luxury renter by creating a comfortable and convenient place for residential living, working, shopping, and dining.