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June 25, 2015

Next gen apartments for next gen dwellers

  • Apartments are popping up in downtown Bellevue that target millennials with things like rooftop party decks, Nest thermostats and bike storage.
    Blanton Turner


    Millennials, from both U.S. and international cities, are recruitment targets for booming tech companies in the Puget Sound region. The largest population bulge since the baby boomers, millennials like cities and apartments that provide a superior live, work and play environment.

    Seattle’s South Lake Union is usually top of mind; however, downtown Bellevue’s booming apartment scene is also a hot spot.

    Bellevue provides a desirable 18-hour experience for its residents, which is an attractive alternative to 24-hour cities like New York or Chicago, according to the Urban Land Institute/PricewaterhouseCoopers 2015 Emerging Trends in Real Estate report.

    Bellevue residents opt to live in vibrant neighborhoods even if it means a smaller place. Being able to walk or quickly commute to work is one of the most important factors in choosing a place to live on the Eastside, as it is in many core Seattle neighborhoods, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council’s 2014 Travel Study.

    Driven by the influx of companies like InfoSpace, Concur, Bungi, Valve and of course Microsoft, there are more than 10 major multifamily projects either under construction or in the pipeline in downtown Bellevue.

    Images courtesy of Blanton Turner [enlarge]
    The roof of Alley 111 will have a lounge outfitted with a full kitchen and bar, large televisions and a fireplace.

    Restaurants and bars will line the street.

    A coffee bar will operate on the lower level.

    Alley 111 is opening this summer with 260 apartments, guest suites and ground floor retail.

    Augusta DeVries, transportation program director for the Bellevue Downtown Association, said in a recent article: “Downtown Bellevue’s proximity to opportunity and innovation is no exception; we will continue to see the density around here that resembles a bustling community and less of a business-only district.”

    While Bellevue may provide the environment millennials crave, that experience must also carry over to the apartment building. With supply growing, the success of a multifamily investment will be determined by building amenities and features that millennial residents desire.

    Beyond the building features, millennials crave creativity and authenticity in their living options and community placemaking. Buildings and events featuring local craft breweries, home-grown retailers with “pop-up shops,” renowned local food trucks, and art by local up-and-coming artists build this sense of community and authenticity.

    Under construction on the corner of 112th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth Street, Skanska’s Alley 111 is an example of multifamily development designed to appeal to the millennial urbanite east of Lake Washington. Set to open this summer, Alley 111 will provide 260 apartments, guest suites and ground floor retail.

    Let’s get physical, and digital

    Convenience means access to grocery stores and transportation, but it also means integrating the physical and the digital. Alley 111 residents will have the ease of paying rent and submitting maintenance requests online. When a package comes for a resident, management will notify them with a text message. They will also have a private resident social network.

    Every unit will have energy-efficient appliances and a Nest smart thermostat. That’s meaningful to future residents because they will pay 45 percent less in water and 20 percent less in energy costs than residents of comparable buildings.

    Living downtown means easy walking, biking or even driving to Bellevue companies. Alley 111 is two blocks away from the downtown Bellevue Transit Center that provides frequent bus trips to downtown Seattle.

    More than that, millennials crave the flexibility to telework. Alley 111 will provide work-from-home built-ins including wall ports and meeting spaces. Residents can change scenery and work from the coffee shop, lunch joint or bar planned for the ground floor. Creativity in working and living environments is important for millennials.

    A millennial home base must double as a playground. Alley 111 is also near Bellevue’s bustling shopping and entertainment core, across the street from the luxury shops at The Bravern. However, an apartment building should provide entertainment options. Alley 111 residents will be able to entertain from the rooftop lounge outfitted with a full kitchen and bar, large televisions and a fireplace.

    But fun also means function. Bellevue is close to nature in every direction. Alley 111 will provide storage lockers for skis, snowboards, kayaks and more. There will also be ample bike storage and maintenance areas.

    While Alley 111 is just one of many multifamily options in downtown Bellevue, it is an example of the thought and detail put into amenities and features of a new apartment building with the goal of attracting the millennial renter.

    Heidi Turner has nearly 20 years of property management experience with mixed-use residential and student housing. She is a principal of Blanton Turner, a Seattle-based property management and development consulting firm.

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