What's one of the greatest allures of living in an apartment or condo? Social activities and amenities–be it relaxing by an outdoor fireplace on a crisp fall night or meeting fellow canine-lovers in the dog park. This year's Multifamily Executive award winners capitalized on creating a sense of community. They thought outside the unit, using stellar amenities and innovative designs to bring residents together.
Amenities abound in these award-winning projects, from the high-end to the affordable. You'll find everything from demonstration kitchens and community vegetable gardens to Internet cafés and clubhouses lined with big screen TVs. Westhaven Park Apartments, an affordable community in Chicago, even has a full-time service coordinator to organize block parties and more.
Plus, the projects feature carefully planned pedestrian-friendly settings. Cityville Fitzhugh, a low-rise infill community in Dallas, offers a walkable, tree-lined streetscape and not just one, but three distinct courtyards featuring a pool and fireplace. At Quantico Family Housing, a military community in Quantico, Va., the homes feature street-facing stoops and porches–and garages that are tucked in back–to maximize resident contact.
This community-centric approach extended well beyond project entries. Winners in the marketing and advertising category attracted prospects by focusing on lifestyle, rather than the details of the actual living units. For instance, ads for The Condominiums at Carlyle Square in Alexandria, Va., highlight the project's close proximity to restaurants, pubs, and galleries.
So what can we learn from this year's winners? Sometimes it's what's on the outside that counts.
–Rachel Z. Azoff
From the beginning, the Hanover Co. knew it wanted to build a high-end apartment property in Dallas with units that could fetch more than $3,000 a month in rent. But regional development partner Ed Hamilton also knew the property needed to be in the right part of Dallas: Uptown.
The key: blending the building with its brick and limestone surroundings. "It's always a challenge to make a project fit in with a high-profile neighborhood," Hamilton says.
Hamilton wanted to build a high-quality property inside as well. "The whole idea was to create an exclusive, urban product with hotel-like amenities," he says. "We also had to have top-line materials and high-end finishes."
Amenity-wise, The Ashton certainly fits the bill. It has a full theater, demonstration kitchen (so that cooks can come in and teach courses), a wine cellar, a living room with a plasma television, a formal dining room for 12 people, a pool lounge (with air conditioning and three televisions), a pool that overlooks Dallas, and a library. "With the library, residents can get out of the apartment, come down, and socialize," Hamilton says.
The interior amenities are just as nice with floor-to-ceiling glass, hardwood floors, granite tiles in the bathroom, hazelnut kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, stainless steel appliances including Maytag side-by-side refrigerators, large master bedrooms with double vanities, frameless shower doors, marble flooring and tub/shower surrounds in all bathrooms, 8-inch solid wood interior doors, and a purse shelf at the entry to each home. "We designed The Ashton to be a show stopper and make a first impression, and, quite frankly, it does," Hamilton says. –Les Shaver
- Location: Dallas
- Developer: The Hanover Co.
- Opening Date: March 2005
- Units: 267
- Unit Mix: One- and two-bedrooms
- Rents: $1,700 to $11,000
- Cool Stuff: Full theater, demonstration kitchen, wine cellar, and pool lounge
PROJECT OF THE YEAR: MID-RISE
57 Bond Street Condominiums New York's battered Bowery seems like the last place for a developer to build sleek condos, but this Lower East Side area is in real estate rehab. "New York changes all the time, and neighborhoods get reinvented," says Marvin Meltzer, vice president of Meltzer/Mandl Architects in New York. "This neighborhood [The Bowery] was becoming gentrified. ... We had an opportunity to create a whole new vocabulary for multifamily living in this part of town."
But neither did Meltzer abandon the neighborhood's feel and scale. The project's low stone wall with round columns (which run along the Bond Street front) and its traditional material and human scale puts it in the area's low- and mid-rise tradition. "The retail space had round stainless steel columns as part of the façade," Meltzer says. "That was our gesture of trying to fit into this community."
Contemporary tastes also drove the design. With 11-foot ceilings and 9-foot high windows, 57 Bond Street was designed for discriminating Big Apple condo buyers. "The big issues in New York right now are big windows and as much ceiling height as possible," Meltzer says. "These are the things that are selling right now."
Inside, the building is first-class.
It has Poggenpohl kitchens with Viking appliances, extra half-baths for three-bedroom units, working fireplaces in the fifth- and sixth-floor units, and two units with private interior staircases that provide owners with exclusive roof access. "The bathrooms are very expensive," Meltzer says. "These are very important things. In New York, you have to include them to compete." –L.S.
57 Bond Street Condominiums
- Location: New York
- Developer: Alchemy
- Opening Date: August 2004
- Units: 10
- Unit Mix: Two- and three-bedrooms
- Sales Price: $1.34 million to $1.97 million
- Cool Stuff: Poggenpohl kitchens, Viking appliances, and extra half-baths for three-bedroom units
Dallas' long-neglected east side is now a cool place to live, thanks in large part to Cityville Fitzhugh, a 222-unit mixed-use project catering to the young, professional crowd.
"It's a big jump to go to the east side of Central Expressway," says Ron Harwick, vice president of James, Harwick + Partners, a Dallas-based architecture firm. "For years it has been viewed as the poor side of the tracks." The project's developer, FirstWorthing Co., boldly took the gigantic leap, betting on the area's potential as it's ideally located less than a mile from downtown Dallas.
Cityville Fitzhugh certainly sets a high standard for the area's rejuvenation efforts. The project, built on a 3.6-acre abandoned commercial office site, boasts a sleek façade in a palette of warm, muted colors. A mix of elevation treatments helps the project blend into its surroundings. Windows, private balconies, and patios face the sidewalks for an "eyes on the street" approach to minimize potential crime, while the streets are lined with carefully preserved live oaks. "Rather than starting with a clean site, we decided to save as many of the trees as possible to give a real mature feeling to the project when it first opened," explains Carl Malcolm, an associate at James, Harwick + Partners.
Three distinct courtyards, which feature a lap pool, outdoor fireplace, and small seating area, create an urban oasis for residents. The amenity offering inside the building proves to be just as luxurious with a contemporary-designed clubhouse, an Internet café, and a fitness center–just to name a few.
This successful project, which leased four months ahead of schedule, is already encouraging more developers to enter the neighborhood. Just down the street, a builder is selling new townhomes in the $400,000 range, and other apartment buildings are slowly emerging in the area as well. –Rachel Z. Azoff
- Location: Dallas
- Developer: FirstWorthing Co.
- Architect: James, Harwick + Partners
- Opening Date: February 2005
- Units: 222
- Unit Mix: Studios and one- and two-bedroom units
- Rents: $730 to $1,335
- Cool Stuff: 4,277 square feet of neighborhood retail space, doggie walk surrounding building's perimeter, outdoor fireplace
When Harkins Builders took on the University Suites at Fayette Square project, the University of Maryland in Baltimore hadn't built anything new on campus in 20 years, making this a very high-profile project.
But University Suites wasn't just high-profile–it was also big. "The 16-story tower is a keystone in a block-wide redevelopment, including the restoration of three historic structures and the creation of a green courtyard, which unifies an undersized, disconnected group of structures at the north end of an expanding urban campus," says Brad Cook, senior project manager with Harkins, which is based in Jarrettsville, Md.
Also on the agenda: an affordable residential hall that could compete with off-campus housing for graduate students. To do that, University Suites had to be inviting, secure, and filled with appealing amenities. "Apartment unit floor plans [at University Suites] prioritize livability, functionality, and flexibility," Cook says. "The building design includes study lounges, laundry facilities, a fitness center, and a café. A 'Skyline Lounge' on the top floor of the high-rise provides a space for special events."
There were serious obstacles to providing all this. Six historic buildings surrounded the tower, causing some staging hassles. And, the building needed to be open by August 2005, which meant Harkins was working under a tight deadline.
Cook says the firm was ready for the test. "Our team knew of the challenges associated with an inflexible schedule, knew that students needed to be moved in by a certain date and therefore focused on being proactive in solving issues ahead of time," he says.
As for the students, they moved in on schedule in 2005, much to the university's relief and delight. –L.S.
University Suites At Fayette Square
- Location: Baltimore
- Developer: Harkins Builders
- Opening Date: August 2005
- Units: 147
- Unit Mix: One- to four-bedrooms
- Rents: $689 to $1,436
- Cool Stuff: Study areas, fitness center, and a "Skyline Lounge"
Fiesta House is certainly a fitting name for this bright and spunky affordable senior community in Reseda, Calif.
Catering to its largely Hispanic population, each of the building's four wings sports a distinct bold color–red, yellow, blue, or green–as a nod to the bright colors of Mexico. And these hues have added a much-needed splash of color to the neighborhood, which is lined with apartment buildings from the 1950s and 1960s.
"We wanted the building to stand out as an improvement to the street because we felt the existing street needed to be upgraded," says John V. Mutlow, president of Los Angeles-based John V. Mutlow Architects. "Other owners have now come in and painted their buildings, slightly brighter than the colors they were before."
This unique building, primarily funded by the HUD's section 202 senior program and the Los Angeles Housing Department, provides desperately needed affordable senior housing in the Los Angeles market, adds Mutlow. (Residents pay 30 percent of their adjusted gross income). Fiesta House's developer, the nonprofit Waset based in Los Angeles, purchased the land from the Los Angeles Housing Authority. The authority had unsuccessfully tried to rezone the land parcel for an affordable family project.
The building's eye-catching exterior is just the beginning of the architect's creative touches. Fiesta House consists of four clusters designed around three courtyards to promote resident interaction and give the building a light, airy feel. A third-floor communal room affords views of the Santa Monica Mountains. Plus, each unit features a porch or balcony carefully designed so the balcony rail extends below the ceiling of the unit by 16 inches to serve as a shading device. These private balconies are a perfect place for a fiesta, or more likely an afternoon siesta. –R.Z.A.
Fiesta House Senior Villas
- Location: Reseda, Calif.
- Developer: Waset
- Architect: John V. Mutlow Architects
- Opening Date: May 2004
- Units: 50
- Unit Mix: One-bedrooms
- Rents: $55 to $393 (HUD affordable rate)
- Cool Stuff: TV lounge overlooking a park and the Santa Monica Mountains, arts and crafts room, multiple courtyards
With their loved ones overseas and in danger, military families have a tough assignment at home these days. And the armed services are trying to combat the stress and isolation of these homefront heroes by building a community for them in both physical and emotional ways.
"By redeveloping housing and creating a stable home life, it makes them better war fighters," explains
Jay Sotos, managing director for Lincoln Clark, a joint venture between Lincoln Property Co. in Dallas and Clark Construction, a builder based in Bethesda, Md.
That's the motivation behind the Quantico Family Housing Project, a 1,137-unit development on the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia.
The first step? Building community through design. Lincoln Clark moved homes closer to the street, placed front doors, stoops, and porches streetside, and moved the two-car garages to the rear of each home. "All of the cars are hidden to create an intimate, pedestrian-friendly environment," Sotos says. Big front yards were also eliminated in favor of creating more common open space where families and children could gather and play, according to Berekey Selassie, a development executive with Lincoln Clark.
So far, the approach has delivered the results both the builder and the military sought. "You really do see families walking around more in the new areas compared to the existing housing stock," Selassie says.
Lincoln Clark also went the extra mile to set up a virtual community for the Marine Corps families as well, allowing them to stay connected with their neighbors and their soldiers, regardless of distance. "Quantico is the first community nationally where Verizon hooked up fiber optic lines to each home," Selassie says. "Each home has the same bandwidth as a small architecture firm." –L.S.
Quantico Family Housing
- Location: Quantico, Va.
- Developer: Lincoln Clark
- Opening Date: July 2005
- Units: 1,137
- Cool Stuff: Fiber-optic lines to each home, pedestrian-friendly layout, Corian countertops
The first developer the Charlotte Housing Authority chose to revitalize the blighted Dalton Village Hope VI project failed because the company–a big national firm–couldn't get the tax credits needed to do the project. So, short on time, the Charlotte housing agency turned to a local company, North Carolina's own Crosland, to complete the planning, site corrections, and construction within a condensed timeline of 26 months. The company did just that and created an award-winning project: Arbor Glen II.
Despite the tight timeframe, Crosland was determined to create a project that would be appealing for decades. To accomplish this, the builder mixed colors, using 10 different paints in four different color schemes and two different shades of bricks within the community. It also constructed a welcoming streetscape by choosing Craftsman-style townhomes along the public roads. "The public's perception for the next 40 years will be the townhouses," says Roger Lewis, a developer with Crosland.
Crosland also took care with Arbor Glen II's interiors. These homes feature high-quality cabinets, ceiling fans, wall-to-wall carpet, intrusion alarms, and plenty of space in the bedrooms for furniture and other belongings. "We paid careful attention so that our design was furnishable," Lewis says. "We were persnickety in seeing how people could use the spaces."
Finally, Crosland spent time on the overall community design, choosing amenities designed to bring residents together. Arbor Glen II offers two fully furnished community buildings, an L-shaped swimming pool, and extensive walkways throughout the development. One community building was designed especially for families, with a kitchen for group meals, a living room, a conference center, and a coin-operated laundry. The other caters to the seniors living in Arbor Glen's first phase, with a living/game room for covered-dish dinners as well as card or sewing parties and a health exam room programmed and managed by a county public health nurse. –L.S.
Arbor Glenn II
- Location: Charlotte, N.C.
- Developer: Crosland
- Opening Date: August 2004 E Units: 91
- Rents: $535 to $610 for 51 units and $256 for the public housing units
- Unit Mix: Two- and three-bedrooms
- Cool Stuff: Two community buildings designed specifically for families and seniors
It seems everyone knows about Chicago's notorious Henry Horner Homes public housing projects, which have been featured in books and movies as examples of urban blight and desperation. But the Chicago Housing Authority's 10-year, $1.5 billion plan for transforming its public housing is resulting in dramatic changes, such as Westhaven Park Apartments, located near the former site of the Henry Horner Homes.
But Brinshore Development in Northbrook, Ill., and Michaels Development Co. in Marlton, N.J., wanted to do more than just build housing at Westhaven. They wanted to change a culture of crime and drugs. To do this, the developers needed to produce an attractive, mixed-income community that would draw both home buyers and renters.
Aesthetically, Westhaven Park accomplishes just that with a collection of 15 brick three- and four-story buildings intended to echo the industrial lofts, central business district office structures, and traditional Chicago neighborhoods that surround the project. The connection between the for-sale and for-rent buildings is similarly seamless. "All of the exteriors are similar in context so that you wouldn't be able to tell which building was for-sale and which building was for-rent," says Rich Sciortino, president of Brinshore Development.
But the bricks and mortar were only part of what Brinshore and Michaels needed to do. They also wanted to build connections between the people who would live inside those walls. So they hired a case manager and established a rewards program that encourages former public housing residents to get involved in the community and the workforce. Most importantly, the companies hired a full-time, in-house service coordinator to develop events such as block parties and other social gatherings. "We are trying to help people to get know their neighbors, not as public housing residents, tax credit renters, or condo owners, but as neighbors," Sciortino says. –L.S.
Westhaven Park Apartments
- Location: Chicago
- Developer: Brinshore Development and Michaels Development Co.
- Opening Date: 2004
- Units: 155
- Rents: $551, $658, and $726
- Unit Mix: One-, two-, and three-bedrooms
Want to be transported back to the Industrial Age? Forget a time machine, and instead just step into The Works Building, an 18-unit apartment community resembling the inside of a factory. The building is covered in rusted steel, while exposed steel beams span the interior. The hallways feature distressed 1920s- and 1930s-style graphics, with plaster and chunks of wall on the verge of falling off. Huge gears decorate the building's exterior and hang from the lobby's ceiling.
"A lot of the people who live there appreciate the fact that we're not painting walls beige and using the standard finishes that a lot of other developers use consistently," says Grant Barnhill, president of Denver-based Portus Funds, which develops boutique, themed apartments for middle-income professionals.
The approach truly transforms the company's properties. Portus poured approximately $660,000 into the renovation of The Works, formerly a crime-ridden building with a 50 percent vacancy rate. "The night we closed on the building, the Denver SWAT team was at a stand-off with one of the residents," Barnhill recalls.
No detail was overlooked in the building's themed makeover. The south side of the building is coated in four-by-eight-foot sheets of steel rusted to industrial perfection, thanks to a little hydrogen peroxide. Inside, the one- and two-bedroom units feature metal and unfinished wood to keep with the factory theme.
Such creativity pays off, giving Portus rents that are 25 percent to 40 percent above the going rate of other properties in the area, Barnhill says. Look out for this imaginative company's next Denver masterpiece: an apartment mimicking a 1950s hunting lodge, complete with a huge campfire on the roof. –R.Z.A.
The Works Building
- Location: Denver
- Developer: Boutique Apartments (a subsidiary of Portus Funds)
- Architect: Studio R Design and Eye Candy
- Opening Date: March 2005 E Units: 18
- Unit Mix: One- and two-bedrooms
- Rents: $785 to $950
- Cool Stuff: Building is wrapped in weathered steel
For more than 50 years, the Atlantic Steel Co. stood as an Atlanta institution. It helped supply the military in both world wars, and by 1974 had expanded to such a size that it consumed enough power to supply a city of 60,000 people. But soaring energy costs and declining steel prices combined to doom the company, which, after its demise in the 1980s, left its 138-acre campus in Midtown Atlanta vacant.
Atlantic Steel's misfortune proved to be Atlanta's opportunity. The site will eventually include 12 million square feet of retail, office, residential, and hotel space; 11 acres of public parks; homes for 10,000 people; and jobs for 30,000 people.
First things first: The former industrial site required some environmental work. "The site had some problem areas underneath it," says Ron Harwick, vice president of James, Harwick + Partners, the Dallas-based architect that built the multifamily portion of the project. "We got a grant to mitigate that and put the site together."
James, Harwick + Partners designed two residential sections for Lane Co.: The Park District, with 231 apartments, and The Arts District, with 347 condos. The theme for the Arts District was provided by painter Piet Mondrian's colorful grid-like paintings. (For more on the Art Foundry Condominiums, see "Artistic Inspiration," p. 60.) "The client was young urban professionals," Harwick says. "We talked about going darker with colors. A lot of the product in the area is creamy and beigy. We wanted to be more European in tone."
The development includes Commons Park, which has green space, water features, and a five-acre pond with a fountain. Decorated with public art made from artifacts of the Old Atlantic Steel Mill, Commons Park also features a 200-foot pedestrian bridge which links the area to The Park District Apartment Homes. Thus, the park not only links the site to its past, but also helps Harwick achieve another goal of bringing people together. "We wanted to create a neighborhood more than a complex," he says. –L.S.
The Commons At Atlantic Station
- Location: Atlanta
- Architect: James, Harwick + Partners
- Opening Date: May 2004 E Units: 578
- Unit Mix: Apartments and condos, with workforce and student housing coming in the future
- Cool Stuff: Commons Park, which features green space, ponds, and a five-acre pond with a fountain, and public art
"This weekend, I shopped ... Today, I walked ... Yesterday, I relaxed." These catchy phrases from PN Hoffman's marketing flyers and other ads smartly play up the most enticing features of The Condominiums at Carlyle Square: its location. After all, it's just steps from restaurants, pubs, galleries, a grocery store, and a Metro stop in Old Town Alexandria, Va., near Washington, D.C.
"We tried to stay away from any real descriptions of the units themselves and just focus on lifestyle," says Mark Stahl, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Washington, D.C.-based developer.
The beautifully crafted marketing materials feature simple text, with the emphasis on large photos of people and cool places to visit. Classy blue-and-green checkered squares appear throughout the package for a consistent look. A unique customizable three-ring binder provides prospects with brochures and floor plans, which is quite an upgrade from the typical property folder stuffed with information in the back pocket.
PN Hoffman's creativity extended to its varied use of marketing tools across multiple media. The campaign included a series of print advertisements in several local newspapers, a 10-second video commercial played in a local movie theater, dioramas in the Metro station, and perhaps the most essential tool for selling a project that is not yet built: an interactive CD featuring a tour of Old Town Alexandria and virtual tours of select units and the building's exterior. The virtual tour captures details as specific as a plant's species and its placement in the courtyard.
The property's buyer profile (young professionals) is very tech-savvy, says Stahl. "A virtual tour allows you to see where your environment is going to be and how you are going to live in that building before it's even built," he says. Not a bad way to convince buyers to fork over the big bucks. –R.Z.A.
The Condominiums At Carlyle Square
- Location: Alexandria, Va.
- Developer: PN Hoffman and Post Preferred Homes
- Opening Date: Spring 2007
- Units: 145
- Unit Mix: Studios, one-, and two-bedrooms
- Sales Price: From the $300s
Aiming for monthly rents as high as $11,000 at a Dallas high-rise, the Hanover Co. knew it needed to a launch a marketing campaign of grand proportion. And the company did just that, partnering with a local design firm to create a snazzy campaign tailored to the affluent urban crowd of Dallas's ritzy Uptown district.
The marketing materials for the 267-unit Ashton focus on the property's grandness, from its incredible views of downtown Dallas and its rooftop infinity pool to its convenient location near restaurants and shops. "We decided to use this approach because The Ashton customer is a discriminating customer that lives an active, urban lifestyle with an affinity for luxury brands," says Cynthia Birdwell, director of marketing for the Houston-based Hanover Co.
Sleek ads feature hip, urban renters soaking in the nearby nightlife. Clever phrases at the top of the ads read: "Why claw your way to the top when you can use the elevator?" and "You've worked hard to get to the top. Now you can live there too."
The most memorable aspect of the campaign: a direct mail flyer invite to the grand opening tucked inside a "hyperventilation" brown paper bag. The bag reads: "Warning ... Those with weak hearts or who are easily excitable may want to consult a physician before attending." The bag created a big buzz, says Birdwell.
"The hardest part of direct mail is [persuading] the recipient to open the envelope," Birdwell says. "We wanted to ensure that our grand opening invitation was opened, viewed, remembered, and responded to." The plan worked–about 650 prospects attended the building's opening bash. –R.Z.A.
- Location: Dallas
- Developer: The Hanover Co.
- Opening Date: March 2005
- Units: 267
- Unit Mix: One- and two-bedrooms
- Rent: $1,700 to $11,000
Many companies give lip service to community service. But Post Properties, an Atlanta-based apartment REIT, mobilizes both employees and residents to give back through the Post HOPE Foundation, which stands for "Helping Others through Post Employees."
Through the program, Post employees have donated thousands of dollars–and hours–to charity. The program provides free landscaping to nonprofits, has given assistance to more than 100 charities, and raised more than $177,000 through employees' payroll deductions and contributions at fundraising events.
Post has had a charitable giving club for the past couple of years, but the REIT increased its focus lately. "[President and CEO] David Stockert wanted us to take our program and expand it," says Janie Maddox, senior vice president of Post Properties and executive director of Post HOPE. "It has become a part of the overall strategy for Post going forward."
Among the company's innovative fundraising ideas that encouraged resident involvement: the "Love Cures All" Valentine's date auction at Post Pentagon Row in Arlington, Va., which has raised more than $33,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. –L.S.
Post Hope Foundation
- Company: Post Properties
- Purpose: To mobilize the company and its employees to help charities
- Established: 2004
- Notable: Sponsors events that bring employees and residents together to raise money or donate time to nonprofits