Lane Co.'s recent business strategy says it all. In the last four years, the Atlanta-based real estate company has built only high-density urban projects and no suburban garden-style apartments. “We just completely changed our strategy,” says Marc Pollack, president of Lane Investment and Development.
And for good reason: Urban living is the latest craze. “In every major market we are involved in, the traffic has become so overbearing that people are tired of living in a disconnected suburban market,” says Pollack. Add lack of developable land and soaring land prices to the equation, and this urban model makes perfect sense.
While the urban phenomenon has been around for years in certain markets, like Manhattan, some parts of the country are just now jumping on the bandwagon. Ten years ago, downtown Los Angeles was practically dead in terms of housing, says Scott Choppin, managing partner of Urban Pacific Builders, a Long Beach, Calif.-based infill developer. But when housing prices and land costs skyrocketed in the late 1990s, downtown areas in Southern California became viable choices for lower-priced, attached housing, Choppin says.
Gen Xers and Yers are the major demographic fueling this urban renaissance. But more empty-nesters are choosing this lifestyle, says Don Meeks, president of Meeks + Partners, a Houston-based architect firm. He anticipates a blending of today's hottest markets: urban mixed-use and active adult living communities.
“I think we'll start seeing and designing mixed-use developments catered to the active adult renter,” Meeks says. “[They are] sophisticated, they have money, they like lifestyle, and that is what mixed-use is all about.”
LAUNDRY LESSONS It's a renter's dream to have an in-unit washer and dryer. Thanks to technology advances, that dream is coming true for more and more apartment residents.
Many manufacturers now offer smaller models featuring reduced water and energy consumption. Whirpool's Energy Star-qualified Duet Fabric Care System offers a 68 percent water savings and 67 percent energy savings compared to traditional top-loading washers, says Nancy Butner, contract marketing manager for Whirlpool Corp. “Significant energy savings over time is a focus for all multifamily property mangers,” she says.
For those who don't have a laundry machine in their unit, they can get the next best thing. Internet-based systems let residents check availability of laundry machines and on the status of their laundry from a computer, PDA, or cell phone.