Younger people who are renting and owning real estate have different demands for what they want in a home, and developers and builders see the benefits of accommodating them.
“We are seeing and have been seeing for some time a shift to more apartment living, multifamily housing living,” said Allen Wilkerson, senior brokerage associate with Colliers International.
“We’ve seen a lot of generational shift with people getting married later now, (and) the mobility being something we see on a regular basis of people bouncing from city to city,” Wilkerson said. “When it comes to multifamily and the apartment side of things, the amenities and being close to restaurants, bars and nightlife tends to be a big driver in those decisions for people who are deciding, ‘Do I want to buy a house? Do I want to settle down right now? Do I want to have some flexibility?’ ”
The people leasing and buying units in these multifamily developments want to be close enough to retail, restaurants and bars to be able to walk to them. Wilkerson said developers are responding to that demand with mixed-use properties that include residential, retail and restaurant spaces.
“Walkability is huge,” he said. “It’s one of the most important aspects of a multifamily or apartment developer or a student housing developer. The younger generations will tend to walk more to get to a location that they find desirable than the older generations. That’s just a fact.”
Added Colliers International brokerage associate Crawford Prezioso: “They’d much rather have the amenities of being able to walk from their condo straight down the road to a bar or a restaurant or a nightlife district, and (they) don’t have to deal with getting off work and then having to do upkeep that comes with a house.”
Kelsey Desender, Five Points Association executive director, agreed.
“If you look at developments like BullStreet, any type of multipurpose where they offer that walkability, who wouldn’t want to walk? It’s way more convenient than traffic,” she said.
These same young consumers also expect to live in a place that allows pets.
“Pets are hugely important to them,” Wilkerson said.
There’s also a demand for common spaces within developments for socializing and gathering in exchange for smaller square footage of individual units, similar to college residence hall living.
Two new rental properties opening in Columbia, Claussen’s in Five Points and the 109-unit 1310 Lady Street, echo that trend with common areas throughout the building.
“By providing those gathering places, whether it be co-working space or Wi-Fi cafes with lounges and TVs and pool tables, the amenities help reduce the room and apartment sizes since people will go to those attractions and not feel as if they have to stay in their apartment the entire time,” Wilkerson said. “That’s been a phenomena that you’ve seen where a lot of these developers have reduced the sizes of the actual rooms. They can fit more rooms, but it also opens up what they’re hearing from their constituency of, ‘We want more common areas where we can mingle. We want to be in more of a social-type environment.’ ”
Ryan Hyler, a partner with Claussen and 1310 Lady Street developer Styx Co., said the common spaces are designed to be an extension of the living space.
“We built a lot of individual seating areas,” Hyler said. “We built a lot of hangout space so that if you want to read a book, pull your laptop out, do some work, you’ll have much more space to interact and make it more of a community vibe.
“That allows people to get out and be with their friends to meet new people. It’s really more of an environment of getting to know each other and mingling as opposed to just going home, staying in your room and then going to work and then coming back and going straight to your apartment,” he said. “That’s been a shift, and I think that’s also been a generational shift as well, that drives that. It’s the common areas that are really popular and really attractive.”
Hyler said the common spaces also help drive trends toward downsizing, something both young professionals and empty nesters may find attractive in living spaces.
“There’s a trend to want to be part of the urban fabric, and I think there’s also a trend to be able to want to live outside of your own living space, so having that community environment is very important,” he said.
Experts have seen the trends evident in new Columbia residential options reflected elsewhere.
“That’s a trend that I’m seeing nationwide: the amenities for the entire apartment complex to use rather than just a single patio,” Prezioso said. “There’s more space and common areas to do things.”
This article first appeared in the July 15 print edition of the Columbia Regional Business Report.