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June 28, 2012

Multifamily developers cater to the Gen Y crowd

  • The socially active Gen Y renter is comfortable with smaller apartments, provided there are common spaces stocked with amenities such as lavish clubhouse areas and conference rooms.
    Alliance Residential Co.

    Images courtesy of Alliance Residential Co. [enlarge]
    Broadstone Koi, under construction in Ballard, is targeting Gen Y renters.

    Today’s multifamily developers are focusing on the next generation of renters.

    Generally recognized as those born between 1975 and 1995, Seattle’s Gen Yers are a specific focus for apartment developer/manager Alliance Residential Co. as the city continues to attract these active, professional 20- and 30-somethings — many of whom rent by choice rather than invest in today’s uncertain housing market.

    Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is an urban “place to be”; home to many Gen Y renters who love the area’s eclectic vibe and diverse collection of restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, boutiques and nighttime entertainment. It also offers convenient access to recreation spots such as the Burke-Gilman Trail, Golden Gardens, two indoor rock-climbing facilities and the Shilshole Marina. The area is a magnet for young, educated professionals who enjoy being close to the city, yet also value the convenience of living in an established area.

    In response to growing demand in Ballard, Alliance is developing the 166-unit Broadstone Koi just 15 minutes from downtown and a short commute to popular Gen Y employers including Google, F5 Networks, Amazon and the Gates Foundation. The community is slated for completion in early 2013 and will pre-lease this summer.

    Factoring in the surrounding high-tech employment options and the importance of staying in touch at all times for today’s renters, Broadstone Koi’s design includes tech-savvy features such as built-in iPod/cell phone charging stations in each apartment, and connectivity stations in the lobby for residents to access account information, pay rent and log-in to a local community trading site.

    When it comes to Gen Y, developers are focused on finding innovative ways to keep people “plugged in.”

    Go for the green

    Listening to Gen Y when it comes to environmental features is also important, especially in Seattle. Many communities are applying for LEED or NAHB Green certification to show a commitment to sustainability, an important factor for many potential Gen Y residents.

    Developers maximize these green initiatives with a focus on sustainable construction and development practices that incorporate features for energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management and recycling, and better air quality.

    Image courtesy of Alliance Residential Co. [enlarge]
    Gen Y renters favor open floor plans to make their smaller spaces feel larger. They also want upgraded finishes such as granite countertops and plank-style floors.

    Broadstone Koi will be LEED silver and incorporate systems for a 30 percent reduction in overall water use and a 20 percent reduction in energy use. The community will also have abundant natural light throughout and public transportation one block away.

    The socially active Gen Y renter is also comfortable with smaller unit sizes, provided there are common spaces stocked with amenities. As a result, lavish clubhouse areas and conference rooms are a must for new communities.

    The average unit size at Broadstone Koi is 730 square feet and the community will have a green rooftop deck with expansive views, barbecues, a courtyard with fire pit, and a club/media room with a group gathering space, community kitchen and big-screen media stations.

    Today’s interiors are also designed to appeal to the professional “renter-by-choice” who desires finishes that rival those in an upscale condo or home. Floor plans popular with Gen Y have a contemporary, open feel with upgraded finishes such as granite countertops, undermount sinks and plank-style floors, as well as private patios or decks. Sophisticated Gen Y renters also appreciate custom touches, such as the sliding panels that open or close off spaces found in Koi’s units.

    Broadstone Koi will also have unique live/work units at the street level, high-ceiling lofts with private patios on the landscaped courtyard and, above the third floor, homes with views of Salmon Bay, Mount Rainier, the Olympic and Cascade mountains, Puget Sound, the Ballard Locks, Fremont and the Space Needle.

    These are all examples of the upscale rental features Gen Y has come to expect, in the type of walkable, transit-oriented urban location they desire.

    Suzi Morris is Alliance Residential Co.’s development director for the Pacific Northwest. She is responsible for all day-to-day aspects of Alliance’s development throughout the Pacific Northwest region including Northern California, Washington and Oregon.

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