High-Rise Apartments See Surge in Mid-Sized Cities

mage of high-rise apartments under construction


Skylines across the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast could look less like Little Rock and more like the Big Apple before too long.

Multifamily property management companies in cities with skylines that are just a sliver of that of Manhattan are embracing high-rise developments at an increased pace.

The renaissance of downtown living in cities across the U.S. is on, like it was in 2005 when smaller urban footprints like those in Denver, Seattle, Milwaukee and Las Vegas began building towers that pushed skylines upward. In Humphreys &Partners Architects’ annual State of the Industry webinar in January, CEO Mark Humphreys said that the “Manhattan-ization of the United States” is under way.

High-Rise Residential Buildings are on the Rise

The Dallas-based firm has seen the number of high-rise residential contracts nearly triple from 2012-2013. Developers in Kansas City, Louisville, Minneapolis, Nashville, and Irvine, Calif., are planning residential high rises from 19-39 stories and touting the views.

Not to be outdone, Manhattan itself is taking on a new shape with very tall, slender, and luxurious apartment towers, according to a report in USA Today, and commanding lofty rents. The towers have narrower bases on smaller plots of land, compared to older high rises in town, and reach higher into the skyline.

Now under construction, 432 Park Avenue will stretch beyond the Empire State Building’s observation deck. The project, which is about half leased, isn’t due to finish until 2015, and there other similar ones are on the board, including one higher than 432 Park Avenue.

Others are following suit in smaller markets, taking advantage of half-acre, quarter-acre and smaller parcels of land that are more readily available in the city’s core. Two developments in Minneapolis – The Carlyle and Grant Park – and one in Kansas City are under way; reaching as high as 39 stories. Other mid-size cities that made the list for the Top 25 Cities U.S. Cities for High-Rise Buildings Constructed 2000-2013 include: Arlington (VA), Portland, Charlotte, Tampa and Phoenix.

“This trend is happening now,” Humphreys said. “High rises are happening because they are closer in and there are smaller sites available.”

High-Rise Living Leaving a Large Footprint

One Light Tower, Kansas City’s newest residential high-rise that is planned in downtown, will have 311 units on a third of an acre. Do the math, and that’s a footprint of more than 900 units an acre.

One Light Tower, which is scheduled to open in 2015, is anchored by Kansas City’s Power & Light District, a master planned entertainment, retail, office and residential district headed by Baltimore-based Cordish Companies. Built in 2008, the $850 million Power & Light District has become the center of Kansas City’s downtown renaissance. Live entertainment venues, restaurants and bars – along with retail and office space – attract the more than 20,000 who live downtown as well as suburbanites.

Weekends are full of live entertainment, food, drink, and shopping. The area is also home to a number of businesses, and fits the en vogue 24/7 live, work, and play model.

Now, with six years under its belt, the Power & Light District will soon offer apartment living. Cordish Companies, which has similar districts in other cities, is planning four residential towers to flank the 9-block area. At 25 stories, One Light Tower will hardly challenge Kansas City’s tallest building (the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center at 45 stories), but it will stand as the city’s first downtown high-rise multifamily apartment building.

Apartment-Based Urban Lifestyle Drives Downtown Design

A mostly glass structure, One Light Tower is just the beginning. Residential population downtown has soared and occupancy rates are at 98 percent, he said. The time is right to give the city a luxury high-rise apartment building, and once One Light Tower is up and running the other three will start climbing toward the sky.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in Kansas City, where the appeal of an urban apartment-based lifestyle is surpassing what the suburbs can offer for a broad swath of the population,” stated Nick Benjamin, Power & Light District executive director, during the webinar. “The ability to offer a pedestrian environment with unique and densely-packed entertainment and lifestyle opportunities is a differentiator for downtown in terms of its draw for renters, and the renters in turn support the existing entertainment and will create opportunity for new entertainment.”

Projects similar to One Light are planned in middle-market cities like Louisville, St. Louis, and Minneapolis, as well as Houston and Baltimore, where entertainment districts are already in place.

The properties are marketed toward the 21-35 age group as well as empty nesters that prefer an urban, more pedestrian lifestyle compared to suburban living. The built-in entertainment infrastructure is added incentive for suburbanites to come back to downtown.

“We’re definitely seeing a fundamental shift in terms of how cities like Kansas City look and feel and what people want from their lifestyle and where they should live,” said Benjamin on the call.

What do you think? Has the Manhattan-ization of the United States begun? Are you seeing an increase in high-rise developments in your markets?


(Image source: Shutterstock)



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

author photo two

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.

One response to “High-Rise Apartments See Surge in Mid-Sized Cities”

  1. Justin Wilson says:

    the Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center is not Kansas City, MO’s tallest building. One Kansas City place at 624 feet is. Floor count does not mean a building is taller than another. The Sheraton on Crown center is KC’s 3rd tallest building at 504 feet.
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