1) A Vertical Street. Multihousing News reports a “vertical street” in the works that’s mixed use, mixing apartment units, 4 community gardens, 3 floors of office space and ground-level retail space. It’s in the city center of Melbourne, Australia. The design, developed by CK Designworks, is for a 35-story building. In addition to being mixed-use, the building will have awesome green elements, including heat-reflective glass, solar-powered lighting, and use of rainwater for watering the gardens and flushing toilets.
I found the inclusion of three greenspaces in the building to be its most intriguing feature. The greenspaces encourage people from the same section of the “street” to hang out together in a pleasant space, just as people in flat neighborhoods gather on stoops or front porches. Living in buildings might be more efficient than living in suburban tracts. But it’s important to recognize the social role that where you live can play in making your day better by letting you form community. I like this a lot, and think building designers can attract renters through community-building by building community-friendly buildings.
I think the integration of office space at the lower levels is practical too. The street-level apartments are never that great to live in anyway. And the mixed-use would diversify the energy-consumption habits of different areas of the building (e.g. apartments would be mostly empty during the day, mostly full at night, whereas office spaces would be the opposite).
2) Portland, Oregon has everyone going nuts, and was the topic of features on two sites:
Erika at MultiHousing News Online noted the Portland area has the lowest apartment vacancy rate in the country, at just 4 percent. But unemployment in the city is still pretty high, at around 10 percent.
Jerry Ascierto at Multifamily Executive brings us quotes from directors of development at big firms calling the area the hottest market in the U.S. From the two articles we learn that supply of new apartments can’t meet demand, partially because the city’s smart anti-sprawl growth boundary has limited development projects to urban infill, and partially because just 157 new units will be completed in the whole city this year.
The result, though, is that now everyone wants a piece of the Portland pie: institutional investment is going like gangbusters, with a year-to-date improvement over last year of over 900 percent. !!!
3) My third favorite (that’s third, favorite, not third-favorite) article this week talked about how to have a stellar “multifamily operations unit.” The tips in the article were taken from a “keynote power panel” at Multifamily Executive’s Rental Rocket virtual event. Here’s a distillation of the takeaways writer Chris Wood brought to us in this article:
- Get good systems in place. Systems to take online maintenance requests, to manage renewals, systems to help your people learn.
- Be available 24/7, or outsource services to companies that are. I like this. If a round the clock fix it man showed up at 2 AM because the heat was broken and I was cold and he made the heat come on right away, it would make me grateful to my management company for a whole long time.
- Accountants and bookkeers are out, sales and service staff are in. You can outsource the former, but people really like dealing with nice people.
- Plug social media applications into your community portals. Why? The more relationships people have with peers, the happier they’ll be.
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