While capital markets put a virtual freeze on construction financing over the past several years, one apartment developer had little difficulty not only building during the recession, but building a 396-unit, double tower high-rise in the high-tech Seattle bedroom community of Bellevue. Following its traditional on-balance sheet, non-leveraged development model, Alexandria, Va.-based AvalonBay Communities put roughly $130 million into Avalon Towers Bellevue, leaping while competitors could only look.
“The building is a testament to our financial strength and our balance sheet, and our desire as long-term holders to be a prominent landlord in this submarket,” says AvalonBay vice president of development Brian Fritz. “If all of our development decisions hinged on private financing, we obviously would have been at a disadvantage and this property would probably not have gotten started at an opportune time when construction costs were coming down and most of the supply from our competitors was absorbed.”
Still, Avalon Towers Bellevue was not without its challenges, including a site just blocks away from the beginning of single-family neighborhoods. To mitigate the drastic difference in height and mass, Avalon split the project into two graduating towers so as not to overwhelm the environs.
Locally sourcing more than 75 percent of construction materials and including regional architectural elements such as ground-faced masonry, steel canopies, and a sloped butterfly roof further emphasize the Northwest design of the towers.
Of course when it came to an apartment high-rise in Microsoft land, the most important feature of the building was the wiring—or lack of it. All residents at Avalon Towers Bellevue are constantly connected since the entire property—including all units, common areas, and amenity spaces—is powered by Wi-Fi. Marketing of the community has also taken advantage of emerging technologies by using touch screens to promote amenities and local attractions and leveraging social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr—all of which helped deliver a brisk, four-month absorption.
“We’re 42 percent leased, and we are still averaging 40 leases per month,” Fritz says. “It has been a very good turn out.”