Norwood, Mass.—The addition of 54 new one-bedroom apartment homes at Norwest Woods in Norwood, Mass., is just the latest in an ongoing success story authored by Chestnut Hill Realty, one of New England’s leading residential real estate firms. The new apartment homes represented almost 10 percent of all new apartments built last year in the Greater Boston area, Chestnut Hill Realty reported.
Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR) acquired the 21-acre, 322-unit Norwest Woods in 1999, and has substantially revitalized the community in the years since. But there remained a problem. Approximately 80 percent of the residences were two- and three-bedroom units, the remaining 20 percent one-bedrooms.
“Taking land that had no land cost and building new one-bedrooms let us appeal to a much larger audience,” Jerry Rappaport, CHR managing director, tells MHN. “We could attract a younger, higher-income demographic with new construction.”
CHR priced the new one-bedroom residences at higher prices than the 30-year-old two-bedrooms, he adds. But the company has been able to command more in rent for the two-bedrooms once renters who have experienced the one-bedrooms opt to move up to Norwest Woods residences with more space.
Among the new one-bedroom residences are a number of luxury loft units on the third floor. “Young professionals like them because they get storage with the loft, or the opportunity to create a home office or guest bedroom,” Rappaport says.
The new one-bedrooms are coming online just as the population of Boston metropolitan area renters is increasing substantially. That trend is being fueled by Generation Y professionals, who appear to favor renting over buying, and by retiring Baby Boomers seeking freedom from home maintenance, he adds.
CHR was forced to address a number of obstacles to make the addition of the new apartments a reality. “The whole permitting process was challenging,” Rappaport says. “Permitting is a full contact sport in Boston.”
A second hurdle was ensuring that the new apartments provided what Rappaport calls “a more diversified product.” That was overcome by adding the loft units, which enabled those residences to be seen as either one- or 1.5-bedroom units.
Finally, CHR had to take on a very tight construction schedule, he adds. In Boston, the prime-leasing season is from June through September. “We had to take a project that might have consumed a year, and do it over eight months, with the worst snowstorm Boston has seen in decades right in the middle of that,” Rappaport says. “Despite all that, we brought it in on time and on budget.”
The addition of the new apartments is only the latest in a long string of CHR-initiated improvements at Norwest Woods. They have included an enhanced entry gateway, landscaping improvements, the planting of 100 new trees, unit renovations and addition of energy-efficient appliances, installation of a new clubhouse and pool, redesigned parking layout and recycling center.
“Norwest Woods is another Chestnut Hill Realty success story,” says Robert Zuker, CHR’s chief operating officer. “Vacancy rates are down, the resident population is more diverse and financially stable, and the property is well-positioned for many years to come.”