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This article first appeared in the PB August 2012 issue of Pro Builder.

Talk to leading residential architects today and you’re likely to hear that their latest designs are geared to Generation Y, also known as the Millennials — a group that has already surpassed the
Baby Boomers in size. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010, there were approximately 85.4 million Gen Ys and 81.5 million Boomers.

The members of Gen Y are roughly between the ages of 11 and 30. The oldest are working and starting families. In fact, they’re producing children at a rate that rivals the first baby boom, says Jerry Gloss, principal of KGA Studio Architecture in Louisville, Colo. “It’s a bubble happening,” he says.

Coming up behind this group are Gen Ys just completing their formal education. After they graduate and enter the work force, they typically seek rental apartments in downtown areas or suburban town centers. For this segment, architects are creating buildings that maximize density on tight infill sites while avoiding an institutional appearance. Even the smallest apartments are designed with the young Gen Y lifestyle in mind, and the buildings often include fitness centers, lounges, and other amenities that promote social interaction.

Let’s take a look at four new projects aimed at the burgeoning Gen Y market:

Project #1 - Homes for hip move-ups

With its contemporary look and vibe, Plan 3 at Pure is the best-seller among young families at Stapleton. Cross roof designs provide solar- panel locations for any home orientation. Photos: Jeffrey Aron/

While it was still on the boards, Pure was showered with accolades, including the Gold Nugget and Best in American Living Awards. Now it’s getting rave reviews from home buyers at Stapleton, a master-planned community that opened in Denver 10 years ago.

“The buyers have come from cool lofts or townhomes and have really fallen in love with that whole look and feel, but now they’re cranking out babies and they need more space,” says Dave Steinke, general manager of Infinity Home Collection in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Infinity has sold 35 homes at Pure since the July 2011 grand opening. The average sale price is $665,000, including upgrades. “We hit the market where it wanted to be hit,” says Steinke.

The Pure concept, brought to life by KGA’s Gloss, marries exterior and interior design in a way that’s not typical of production housing. “To me, there always seems to be a disconnect between the exterior architecture and what you find once you open the front door,” says Steinke.

Plan 3’s kitchen carries through the urban-loft theme with its oversized kitchen island, stainless steel appliances, lighting, and color palette.

Gloss designed three elevations — coastal, Craftsman, and contemporary — and married them to the interior architecture. Denver-based HRI Design merchandised the model homes to reflect each style. “The colors, the palettes, the materials — it’s hip, it’s happening, it’s fun, but it’s not outrageous,” says Gloss.

Four floor plans range from 2,766 to 3,149 square feet and start in the high $500,000s. The star is the contemporary Plan 3, with such features as a linear, horizontal fireplace, custom metal stair railings, and a 7 x 7-foot kitchen island that is reminiscent of the lofts Gen Ys love, Steinke says.

Every home has a front yard, side yard, and backyard. At 65 x 100 feet, the lots are larger than the norm for a neotraditional community. So are the garages, which measure 20 feet wide by 37 feet deep.

“Everybody’s got a lot of toys — bikes, trikes, summer gear, winter gear,” Steinke says. “So we made an abnormally large garage space.” All garages are alley-loaded and set well back from the street, camouflaged by the landscaped side yard.

Floor plan options include bonus space over the garage and in the basement. The finished garage space adds about 400 square feet and the basement about 1,000 square feet. “Suddenly, a 3,150-square-foot home becomes 4,550 square feet with six bedrooms,” says Steinke, adding that Realtors have been encouraging their clients to finish these spaces now, since their households will likely include more children and visiting grandparents.

“Typically our construction costs are around $200 a square foot,” he says. “But when you load up that extra square footage, you get down to $150 to $160 per foot, which is competitive with everything.”
The Pure homes are rated Energy Star 3.0, and they’re smart: At closing, buyers receive iPads that allow them to control all home systems on the go, including HVAC, lighting, and security.



Project #2 - Maximizing density and livability

The “woonerfs” or “living streets” of Amsterdam influenced the design of Hazel 8, new rental apartments on the Case Western University campus. This rendering depicts one of the internal thoroughfares where pedestrian and vehicular traffic mix. Illustrations: Kephart

Small infill sites in urban areas offer great opportunities to serve Gen Y renters. Take, for example, Case Western University in Cleveland, located in an art and museum district, adjacent to two medical campuses, and across the street from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
When a shortage of student housing prompted University Circle (a conglomerate that controls the university properties) to consider building new apartments on-site, a group of architects was invited to submit ideas for the project. The contract was awarded to Kephart, a Denver-based architecture and community planning firm. Kephart adapted its conceptual design for small apartments for the Case Western project, now known as Hazel 8.

“There was a little stigma about bringing student rentals to this high-profile site,” says Kephart’s John Binder. “We thought we could cater to a slightly different profile with market-rate apartments that have their own front doors, similar to a single-family residence or townhouse.”

Another challenge was to maximize the density of the 1.3-acre site, which was formerly a parking lot. Kephart achieved 45 DUA with 59 total apartments, nearly twice the density of a typical garden-apartment community. Consisting of two-story apartments above one-story flats, the wood-frame buildings are also less costly to construct than concrete or steel, Binder says.

“We ended up with a 1-to-1 parking ratio, most of it alley-loaded, one-car garages beneath the apartments,” says Binder. Following a campus precedent, he created internal thoroughfares for garage and apartment access (it’s not unusual to have a garage on one side of the alley and a front door on the other).

“Except for a resident lounge, there are no common corridors or areas to heat and cool,” he says. “Interior stairs lead to the apartments. We’re trading out the efficiency of common corridors for a bit more expensive construction that allows us to get 45 units to the acre.”

WXZ Development of Fairview Park, Ohio, is developing Hazel 8, which is under construction and scheduled to start leasing this summer.

Kephart designed two-story apartments over one-story flats, with interior stairways for access. One-car garages are on the ground floor. Illustration: Westlake Reed Leskosky


Project #3 - Clever small-lot solution

Cantilevers make for interesting architecture at Four in West Los Angeles. The homes’ sustainable features include reclaimed redwood siding, fiber-cement panels, bamboo flooring, tankless water heaters, and low-e windows. Photos: Courtesy of Killefer Flammang Architects

The city of Los Angeles Small Lot Ordinance has spawned some innovative residential designs since it went into effect five years ago. The ordinance permits the construction of fee-simple, single-family homes on small lots in multi-family zones.

One standout example is Four — four detached homes on a 49 x 107-square-foot site designed by Killefer Flammang Architects of Santa Monica, Calif. Located in the West Los Angeles neighborhood of Mar Vista, Four was a collaboration of architects Wade Killefer and Barbara Flammang and their son, Joe Killefer, the project’s developer. Two homes face east and two face west, separated by 6-inch firewalls. A common driveway provides access to individual garages.

“What’s really good about this is the fact that they’re not condominiums,” says Wade Killefer. “Home buyers have been leery of condominium lawsuits.” The site is a mile from the beach and within walking distance of restaurants and shopping.

The potential buyers envisioned for the three-story homes were young, college-educated, working couples — not unlike Joe Killefer, a 27-year-old Dartmouth graduate and licensed contractor. He wasn’t far off; the homes have been purchased by young professionals, including a college professor and a public-radio executive. None of the buyers have children yet, but they’re planning to start families soon.

The kitchen, living, and dining areas are on the second floor, along with a powder room. “The glass stair treads are fun and different,” says architect Wade Killefer. “People really went wild for that.”

The homes are 1,500 to 1,600 square feet and have a bedroom and bath on the ground floor, adjacent to the garage, that can be a nanny’s quarters or a home office. The kitchen, living/dining area, and powder room are on the second floor, and there are two bedrooms and two baths on the third floor. Second-floor decks are large enough for a barbecue grill and dining area.

“All of the homes sold at asking price — just under $800,000 — before they were listed, for all cash,” Killefer says. “Our comps were condominiums.”

He adds that there are quite a few projects like Four going on now in Los Angeles. In fact, Killefer Flammang is planning eight homes on another site about half a mile away.

Killefer Flammang Architects positioned the homes at Four back to back on a tight city lot in West Los Angeles, separated from each other by 6-inch firewalls.


Project #4 - Reimagining a city block

To give the project a more human scale, the architects
carved out a community pocket park facing a quiet residential area. Illustrations: Thomas P. Cox, Architects

In October 2011, construction started at Wilshire La Brea, a mixed-use project that occupies an entire city block in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. Winner of a Gold Nugget Award in 2011 for Best On-the-Boards Mixed Use Project, Wilshire La Brea is a mid-rise apartment building with street-level retail. It’s in a prime redevelopment area within a few blocks of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a new Metro station that’s expected to open in 2019.

The city was strongly opposed to high-rise apartments on the site because of concerns about density and traffic, says Simon Ha, associate principal and studio director in the Los Angeles office of Thomas P. Cox, Architects (TCA). San Francisco-based BRE Properties, which acquired the land from a previous developer, asked TCA to come up with a new design concept. The architects responded with plans for Type III podium housing — a five-story building with one level of retail and two levels of subterranean parking. A pocket park, landscaped courtyards, and a double row of trees on the street help soften the intensely urban setting.

Getting Wilshire La Brea approved took three years, Ha recalls. “We had design charrettes with community members and invited them to participate in designing the pocket park. In the end, we were able to reach a consensus with the community and gain the support of the city council.”

In addition to 40,000 square feet of retail space, Wilshire La Brea includes 478 rental apartments, ranging from townhomes as large as 1,300 square feet to 400-square-foot “micro lofts.”

“We wanted to create some units that would be organically affordable, without subsidies, for Gen Ys just out of college who are looking for a starter apartment,” says Ha.

Since the intended occupants don’t cook much, the micro lofts have only a kitchenette with an under-the-counter refrigerator and a two-burner cooktop. “We eliminated the kitchen/dining room from the plan and turned it into a large studio or loft,” he says.

A variety of communal spaces encourage social interaction, including a gaming room, a laundry room that’s also a Wi-Fi hotspot, two swimming pools, two fitness centers, roof decks, and a clubhouse.
Leasing at Wilshire La Brea is scheduled to start in early 2014.

A cantilevered sky deck 70 feet above the entrance to Wilshire La Brea offers residents one of many opportunities to socialize.