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Multifamily Mania

A look at three multifamily projects and the state of multifamily housing

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SkyVue Apartments, Pittsburgh

A recent Dodge Data & Analytics report, First Half 2018 Commercial and Multifamily Construction Starts for the top 20 metropolitan areas in the U.S., showed that during the first half of 2018, five of the top 10 metropolitan markets for commercial and multifamily construction starts ranked by dollar volume showed increased activity compared to a year ago. And, of the top 20 markets, 11 registered gains. At the national level, Dodge Data & Analytics reported that the volume of commercial and multifamily construction starts during the first half of the year was $101.4 billion, down 1 percent from the first half of 2017, but 2 percent above what was reported during the first half of 2016.

The commercial and multifamily total is made up of office buildings, stores, hotels, warehouses, commercial garages and multifamily housing. At the U.S. level, the 1 percent drop off during the first half of 2018 reflected at 8 percent retreat for commercial building that was essentially balanced by an 8 percent increase in multifamily housing.

Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics, notes that multifamily housing has proven to be surprisingly resilient so far this year, following an 8 percent decline in dollars at the U.S. level that was reported for all of 2017. “With apartment vacancy rates beginning to edge upward on a year-over-year basis, banks had been taking a more cautious stance toward lending for multifamily projects. Yet, after some loss of momentum during 2017, several factors appear to be providing near-term support for multifamily housing.”

Yardi Matrix’s U.S. Multifamily Supply and Demand Forecasts by Metro for June 2018, notes expected demand for 135,000 to 145,000 new apartment units per year in the top 30 metros, or about two-thirds of all of the population and multifamily demand in the U.S.

“Understanding the future demand for rental housing is critical for the multifamily industry,” says Paul Fiorilla, associate director of research at Yardi Matrix. “The questions of where to build and how much to build are important not only to forming public policy but for individual developers and lenders, as well. Looking forward, the industry needs to find ways to develop housing that’s affordable without overbuilding in a way that disrupts business models.”

SkyVue Apartments, Pittsburgh

The Millennial Lifestyle

According to Murray, “The demand for multifamily housing by Millennials remains strong, given their desire to live in downtown areas while the increasing price of a single-family home and diminished tax benefits may be dissuading some from making the transition to single-family home ownership.”

Located in Pittsburgh’s Oakland district, the new, high-rise SkyVue Apartments offers upscale living with market-rate unfurnished apartments in one of the city’s major cultural areas, as well as its academic and health care center. With more than 550,000 square feet, SkyVue also has furnished apartments catering to students at three nearby universities.

Designed by Niles Bolton Associates, Alexandria, Va., the exterior cladding for the 14-story structure was originally planned to be aluminum composite material (ACM), but was ruled out through value engineering for 100,000 square feet of PAC-CLAD Flush Panels from Petersen Aluminum Corp., Elk Grove Village, Ill. The 24-gauge panels were finished in Bone White, Stone White and Charcoal. Additionally, the project utilized 13,000 square feet of Petersen Aluminum’s PAC-CLAD 7/8-inch Corrugated Panels in Matte Black along with 28,000 square feet of 24-gauge sheet for the trim.

Nick Hill, project manager for Niles Bolton, says they specified the Petersen profiles for the modular construction that was planned. “Panelizing is definitely the way to go to avoid issues with the weather,” he says. “Installing vertically was more challenging than installing them horizontally, but still it was a relatively straightforward job. The Matte Black corrugated provided a nice accent to the other colors.”

Wyatt Inc., Pittsburgh, constructed the prefabricated structural system for the project after the architect selected the flush panels. Jim Barca, operations manager for Wyatt, says they were brought in late to the process after the ACM has been value-engineered out. “We built the whole wall system in the shop and attached the Flush Panels there and then transported the sections to the site. The flush panels were easy to install.”

“We were really under the gun because of the late start,” Barca adds, “and the guys at Petersen’s nearby Annapolis Junction plant really helped us out. It was a big job that really turned out nice.”

The Pierce, San Jose, Calif.

Modern Amenities

The 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), found Americans advocate for improvements to current services and amenities. And technology, in the form of strong cell service or fast Internet access, is a requirement for modern apartments or any housing arrangement.

The study found Americans want more amenities at their fingertips, and are interested in features such as better appliances and washers/ dryers, as well as community features, such as outdoor spaces and gyms. And, Millennials are more social and more attached to the urban centers.

The Pierce is a state-of-the-art and ultramodern housing complex location in the SoFA (South of First Area) arts district near downtown San Jose, Calif. The building has more than 230 pet-friendly units with top-notch indoor and outdoor amenities. Situated on 2 acres, the Pierce has an urban vibe and futuristic characteristics, and features an Internet café, outdoor swimming pool and sun lounge, recreational center, fitness center with a cardio theater, bike room, gourmet coffee bar, and an outdoor courtyard lounge with a fireplace and kitchen.

The mixed-use development fronts three different streets, and includes 9,000 square feet of Hatfield, Pa.-based Laminators Inc.’s Omega-Lite aluminum composite material (ACM) panels in its proprietary Clip & Caulk installation system. Steinberg Architects, San Francisco, selected a variety of different color ACM panels to fit in with the complex’s innovative and energetic urban theme. Architectural Building Products, Buffalo, N.Y., distributed the ACM panels in Sierra Tan, Sandstone, Dove Grey and custom Storm Cloud. Clark Builders Group, Monterey, Calif., was the general contractor on the project, which was completed in 2016.

The Omega-Lite panels provide The Pierce with a Class A fire rating and meets the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 285, Miami-Dade County Product Control and Florida Product Approval requirements.

Thornton Flats, Austin, Texas; Photo: PSW Homes

Downtown Living

Milennials are also placing an increased emphasis on design as a deciding factor in where they choose to live, leading multifamily housing developers to look for distinct architectural features to stylize their projects in competitive apartment and condominium markets.

David Zeitlin, business director at Cambridge, Md.-based Cambridge Architectural, says, “While multifamily has not traditionally been a place where we’ve seen use of architectural mesh systems, there is increasing interest from this important market segment. I think designers are now embracing the unique combinations of material depth and limited structural requirements that our systems provide, while offering solar heat gain and glare reduction, a palette for graphical branding, and flexibility in form; all while maintaining outward views for residents.”

One such project featuring architectural mesh is Thornton Flats, a smart-growth, urban infill project in Austin, Texas. The 104-unit apartment community is in a quiet residential neighborhood. To create a chill South Austin vibe, while accentuating the complex’s indoor/outdoor space, Cambridge Architectural was asked by the developer, PSW Homes’ in-house architects to brand the façade of one of the three apartment buildings. Cambridge Architectural created a design with Thornton Flats’ signature leaf pattern.

Starting with 10 panels of raw stainless Cambridge Mid Balance mesh, a Matisse-like, leaf cutout was created by powder-coating the surrounding mesh in Antique Bronze, which looks black. A tan wall behind the 50 percent opacity mesh creates a 3-D visual effect with subtle-color changing lighting that provides additional depth to the façade in the evenings. L&S Erectors Inc., Litchfield, Ohio, installed the panels.

“We really liked the translucent layering design opportunities the mesh screen offered as well as the long-term durability of powder-coated stainless steel,” says Andy Webre, architectural project manager at PSW Homes.

The metal mesh façade joins leaf murals done in other mediums on the two additional buildings in the community. “The leaf graphics turned out to be a great way to give residents an icon that is representative of their values and those of PSW,” Webre says. ‘We wanted them to have a sense of distinction and place other than a boring building number.”