Keynote: A New Development Cycle

Rohit Anand, principal of KTGY Architecture + Planning, was the keynote speaker at MHN’s 2012 Excellence Awards ceremony on September 24 in New York.

New York—Rohit Anand, principal of KTGY Architecture + Planning, was the keynote speaker at MHN’s 2012 Excellence Awards ceremony on September 24 in New York. The event was sponsored by Interface and Carnegie, two founding members of the commercial green building movement. Anand noted that multifamily developments targeting Gen Y are located in urban areas and cater to the generation’s greater sociability, sense of style and desire to live in 24-hour work-play-live cities. The Gen Y demographic, 80 million strong, is larger than the baby boomers, and they are also the generation delaying traditional life events such as marriage, having children and homeownership. Studies from J. Turner Research show that location is by far the most important consideration for this demographic when selecting an apartment.

Other top amenities that are most desired by Gen Y include: parking, which is “still very important,” according to Anand; fitness centers, which rank “very, very high”; and pool and yoga amenities, which rank higher for Gen Y than for other groups. In designing project amenities, the apartment industry appears to be learning from the hospitality industry. “This is a social generation,” he said. Besides the space in their apartments, Gen Y residents need second and third gathering spaces—the second being the amenities area, and the third is the city itself.

Some of the latest trends in the layout of common areas involve mixing uses and removing walls previously separating the various areas, said Anand. The bar, lounge and fireplace may now all be located in one area, separated only by furnishings or furniture. The leasing area may be mixed into the general amenity areas during busy evening hours. Business centers may be open, and even the theater may no longer be enclosed. Instead, it may have a barn door that can be closed if needed.

The plentiful use of glass to achieve a look of transparency in the common areas is another trend borrowed from the hospitality industry. Outdoor spaces, involving the use of fireplaces and fire pits, are also becoming more important, even in cold regions. Dog and cat wash areas, garden plots and bike repair shops are other new amenities now being offered. “People are very serious about their bikes today,” said Anand.

Four- to five-story woodframe construction is a popular choice for urban infill developers, he added. Densities have been increasing in the latest cycle. Woodframe podiums in the previous cycle may have had densities of 150 units per acre, but Anand said there are many projects in the current cycle that achieve densities of 200 units per acre with the same product type. New projects are incorporating two levels in the podium and five levels above, for a total of seven woodframe levels.

As densities increase, apartment sizes are also becoming smaller. According to Anand, the net average square feet may be falling from 800 square feet to 702 square feet. In the suburbs, he noted, they have also declined, from 1,100 square feet to 950 square feet.