With the economy strong over the past few years, many residential developments that had been stalled for a lack of funds have now opened or are nearing completion since financing has once again become available. And the projects span all price points and regions of the country.
While several developers focused on rental buildings during the downturn when money was tight, the condominium segment has returned with vigor, especially at the high end. But rentals continue to flourish now, too, with some still targeting millennials who are willing to spend more monthly and trade large apartment units for more shared amenity spaces. Even affordable apartment buildings are becoming more prevalent, sometimes as part of live–work complexes for artists in urban downtowns.
Developers building in popular transit-oriented-developments (TODs) are frequently finding that residents in these neighborhoods like having an electronic message board in the lobby or mailroom that relays mass-transit bus and train schedules. But a twist on the latest-amenities package may be coming to your area soon: Some buildings, especially in urban locations, are beginning to encourage residents to take advantage of existing neighborhood facilities and thereby become more integrated into their communities, says architect Cecil Baker, whose eponymous firm designed One Riverside (see below), a condominium under construction in Philadelphia. This change could make highly valued square footage available for better uses. Baker expects gyms, however, to remain popular, because fitness continues to be important to many demographics.
The four developments featured here offer a taste of just some of the projects reflecting these various trends.
Capitol Lofts, Phoenix
Not surprisingly, buyers lined up for these affordable housing apartments when the project opened in downtown Phoenix last month. Developer Saul Siegel of Cassiano Development in Carmel, Calif., wanted to cater to the underserved urban-Phoenix first-time buyers’ market.
At a starting price of $165,000 for a 572- to 877-square-foot loft, 60% of the 65 hip studios and one-bedrooms—some with a balcony or patio—were quickly reserved. Most have 20-foot-high ceilings.
“Affordable housing is a critical element for an urban area to grow,” says Siegel.
Shared amenities include a lobby, meeting room, fitness center, outdoor landscaped patio, bike storage, EV-charging stations, and recreation area. Customized upgrades include a half bath in the loft area, Murphy beds, and other higher-quality door and surface materials.
To qualify for a unit, buyers need to make a minimum annual income of $27,000.
“Many didn’t know they could afford to do this and be able to spend less than they would on rent,” says Kristin Bickley, director of sales with Realty Executives, which is marketing and selling the property. Capitol Lofts’ appeal also lies in the local mass-transit options, its active neighborhood, and the growth in nearby Arizona State University’s downtown campus.
Construction on Capitol Lofts will begin this May, with completion scheduled for summer 2018.
Citizen360 is a swank condominium building located on New York City’s Upper East Side at 360 E. 89th St. in the bustling Yorkville neighborhood, near the new Second Avenue subway line.
Developed by Anbau, based in New York City, and designed by SHoP Architects and high-end holistic decorator Clodagh, the 34-story, 84-unit building was designed for a variety of demographics seeking living quarters that would foster wellness despite the homeowners’ busy urban lives. To achieve that, there is a wellness lounge with state-of-the-art fitness and yoga studios, an infrared sauna, and, in the lobby, a living wall and water feature for feng shui elements. But there are other features that will spark attention from all ages—a private dining room and catering kitchen, a playroom for kids with an art studio, a multimedia studio/screening room, a lounge with fireplace, and on-site automated parking that quickly retrieves cars.
The condos range from one- to four-bedrooms; prices start at $1.3 million and go up to $12 million. Among the noteworthy features in the condo units themselves are extra half baths in even the one-bedrooms, smoked-walnut kitchen cabinets, kitchen islands with a waterfall edge, and teak vanities in the bathrooms.
Completion is scheduled for the end of 2017.
HERE Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.
College and university students continue to benefit from private-sector developers having realized the importance of providing housing options that are close by campus, competitively priced, and safe. A cadre of developers knows this market intimately and which amenities work best. In fact, the student housing market in the U.S., which numbers about 20 million, has seen billions pumped in from wealth funds, pensions, and private equity, totaling about $6 billion to $7 billion. In addition, student housing REITs have outperformed other REIT indices by 19% for this segment in the U.S., according to Savills World Research.
At HERE Kansas, Chicago-based developer CA Ventures designed an eight-story, 624-bed building that demonstrates the success of infill university residential product. The site lies just six minutes on foot from the University of Kansas’ Memorial Union community center or is a shuttle bus ride away.
CA Ventures knew the value of having retail square footage on-site with a coffee shop and pizza parlor, along with personalized features to localize the property, says J.J. Smith, president, CA Student Living, the developer’s investment and development equity arm. Accordingly, HERE Kansas houses a basketball court, fitness center, coffee bar, infinity-edge pool, outdoor deck, fire pit, theater, and bike storage.
The building opened last August, and its beds were quickly leased. Prices vary by unit: A room with one bed in a four-bedroom/two-bath suite is $679 per bed, for example. A private, one-bedroom residence on the penthouse level costs $1,299 a month.
One Riverside, Philadelphia
Picking up on the trend of both young and older professionals with and without children, plus empty nesters, taking advantage of urban living, architects Cecil Baker + Partners in Philadelphia designed a cutting-edge condominium building in what has become a prime downtown location for developer Dranoff Properties, also locally based.
The site, a former parking lot and, longer ago, a troubled area known as Needle Park, was cleaned up and transformed as 24/7 urban living gained popularity. The site is now touted for being part of Fitler Square, opposite the Schuylkill River, by a park that includes bike and walking trails, as well as being near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dubbed One Riverside, the building stands 22 stories high and features a modern window-wall façade with light metal panels and a more-traditional brick-and-travertine base. Its views of the city and river in both directions are unobstructed “forever,” unusual for an urban site.
The first buyers will move in this April as the building is completed in stages, and the finishing timetable is expected to be late summer. Among the trends the property reflects: The condos were designed for some buyers who wanted to combine units for more space. Instead of the original 82 planned units, 68 are anticipated, along with 18 layouts instead of the original eight.
“This is something the marketplace dictated after the condo market became viable again,” says architect Cecil Baker. “Originally, the building was conceived as a rental of 147 units, but after money became available for condos, the shift was made,” Baker says. “Many buyers also liked the building because they wanted to live on one floor after selling a brownstone in the city or after moving in from large suburban homes.”
Other perks at One Riverside: a motor court to provide easy drop-off and pickup; a 60-foot-long indoor pool with sundeck; a private, landscaped garden; a hospitality suite for overnight guests; and concealed underground parking.
The condos, priced from $715,000 to $7 million and numbering one to five bedrooms each, feature 10-foot-high ceilings; terraces; floor-to-ceiling, sound-insulated glass walls for spectacular day- and nighttime views of the city and its sequence of bridges; and different color and material palettes to accommodate various design styles and tastes.
“People don’t have to settle for drywall and [solid surfacing]; they see what’s available elsewhere and want it in their own homes,” Baker says.
Already, 75% of the condos have sold. The building includes a 10-year tax abatement.