Urban Core Continues to Drive Apartment Designs and Construction

Multifamily Construction 2016

As recent as a decade ago, apartment design and construction were more than a stone’s throw from the urban core. Since then, demographics have changed, altering the approach of one of the country’s leading multifamily and student housing architects. Humphreys & Partners Architects, L.P., which celebrates its 25th year in 2016, is spending more time on busy downtown streets building walkable communities.

State of the Industry for 2016

The Dallas-based firm has seen significant growth in recent years in the number of proposals sent for its e-Urban and High-Rise high-density products designed to meet the live-work-play downtowners. According to its recent state of the industry webinar, e-Urban proposals rose from 111 in 2014 to 131 last year, and High-Rise climbed from 94 to 124.

The increase marks movement away from the traditional four- and five-story wrap-style structures that have been popular for years.  Aging Baby Boomers and mobile Millennials who desire living closer to the action of big cities are driving the changes, says Humphreys & Partners Architects, L.P., CEO Mark Humphreys.

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Urban core living is now a cool thing

Humphreys noted that development and construction in the urban core is a game changer in apartment architecture. The number of proposals the company sent out in 2015 for high-rise projects were the company’s second most to e-Urban and increased 20-25 percent over 2014. High-rise proposals grew for the second straight year.

“Never in the history of the U.S. have we had the two largest populations very interested in the urban core. Never,” he said. “It wasn’t interesting (to live in urban core) ever. But now it’s a cool place.”

All of the 62 U.S. markets that Humphreys & Partners track are undergoing urban revitalization downtown. Humphreys pointed to a pair of high-rise projects that are exceptions to high-density urban areas.

One Light in Kansas City, Mo., is a 25-story residential tower with 311 units and 42,000 square feet of retail that just came on line. It’s the first high-rise to be built in downtown Kansas City is several years and was 85 percent pre-leased.

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Humphreys & Partners Architects, LP – 65 Bay Street

Also, 65 Bay Street, a 52-story tower with 446 units, is going up in Jersey City, N.J., in the shadows of Manhattan where the cost of living is less. Its size coupled with location away from New York City is an advantage, Humphreys says.

“It’s 10-15 minute train ride from Manhattan and rent is down significantly,” Humphreys said. “Plus, you have a better view than most people in Manhattan because you’re viewing all of Manhattan. It’s a very exciting property. We’re seeing this high-rise happening in multiple markets.”

With demand for high-density living come more calls for mixed-use residential and commercial projects.

“Two to three years ago people were saying they didn’t want to do any retail, it’s all dark,” Humphreys. “But it depends on where you are. So many of urban deals downtown are close to it. We’re seeing big growth on retail side.”

Urban designs creating modern, edgy looks in student housing

Even student housing construction appears to be taking a page out of the urban core movement to walkable living spaces and communities. Humphreys & Partners President Greg Faulkner says that 80 percent of the company’s student housing projects are following the urban model located in close proximity to campus.

University Park at 584 units and 762 beds is the first student housing project across the street from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Also, a 26-story high-rise, The Standard at Tempe, is being constructed across from Arizona State University.

Student Housing Apartment

Most projects are following the sleek, modern feel of urban multifamily housing with four- to six-stories.

“A lot of these are modern, contemporary and pretty edgy designs,” Faulkner said. “We’re seeing that trend on student housing for sure.”

Some projects are being built for mixed use and include retail and even a hotel. The mega Standard at Gainesville is a 10-story student housing high-rise and hotel in Gainesville, Fla., loaded with “amenities on steroids,” Faulkner said. The student housing portion is 1,200 beds; the hotel has 142 rooms. Also, projects to be built in San Marcos, Texas, and Columbia, S.C., have retail on the first floor.

Tim Blackwell

Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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