The Rise of 5-Over-1 Apartments aka “Stumpies”

Bloomberg has an article that helps explain the rise of the “5-Over-1” apartment buildings that have proliferated over the last 20 years. From the article:

These buildings are in almost every U.S. city. They range from three to seven stories tall and can stretch for blocks. They’re usually full of rental apartments, but they can also house college dorms, condominiums, hotels, or assisted-living facilities. Close to city centers, they tend toward a blocky, often colorful modernism; out in the suburbs, their architecture is more likely to feature peaked roofs and historical motifs. Their outer walls are covered with fiber cement, metal, stucco, or bricks.

They really are everywhere, I discovered on a cross-country drive last fall, and they’re going up fast. In 2017, 187,000 new housing units were completed in buildings of 50 units or more in the U.S., the most since the Census Bureau started keeping track in 1972. By my informal massaging of the data, well over half of those were in blocky mid-rises.

These structures’ proliferation is one of the most dramatic changes to the country’s built environment in decades. Yet when I started asking around about them, they didn’t seem to have a name. I encountered someone calling them “stumpies” in a website comment, but that sadly hasn’t caught on. It was only after a developer described the style to me as five-over-one—five stories of apartments over a ground-floor “podium” of parking and/or retail—that I was able to find some online discussion of the phenomenon…

The boom has also been shaped by zoning that sometimes leaves downtowns and suburban commercial districts as the only practical spots for new housing. Ordinances requiring a minimum number of parking spaces per apartment unit factor in, too: Where minimums are relatively high, as in Texas, the best solution can be wrapping the building around a parking deck, a style known as the Texas doughnut. Where they’re lower, the ground-floor podium will do. City planners also often require developers to devote street-front podium space to shops and restaurants.

If you’re interested in why apartment construction has trended in this direction, you really should read the full article; it helps explain the impact that building codes, zoning and regulation can have on what’s built and where it’s built.

Keystone Wins Approval for Horse Pen Creek Apartment Development

With an 8-1 vote the Greensboro City Council approved rezoning for a proposed 380-unit apartment community off of Horse Pen Creek Road. The Greensboro News & Record has the story:

The council voted 8-1 in favor of rezoning 21.4 acres for the apartment project that developer Keystone Homes says will cost about $50 million and include up to 380 units. ..

City staff members and Keystone consultants told the council they believe a widened Horse Pen Creek Road can handle additional traffic from the project and required safeguards should protect the environment adequately…


Wallace said the apartment complex would attract “active adult” residents and young professionals drawn by its amenities, nearby commercial district and ready access to nearby highways and the Piedmont Triad International Airport.


Amenities would include a fully equipped chef’s kitchen, a variety of fitness facilities, a children’s game room, a pet spa and one- and two-car garages, he said.

Printworks Mill Project in Greensboro Ready to Go

The financing is in place and work is ready to begin on the Printworks Mill project in Greensboro. From the Triad Business Journal:

The Alexander Co., developer of the Printworks Mill commercial and residential project across Yanceyville Street from Revolution Mill in Greensboro, will hold an official groundbreaking on the site Wednesday morning with stakeholders, local politicians and government officials on hand…

…Alexander has settled on 217 apartment units in three buildings, leaving the first floor of a four-story building near the corner of Fairview and Ninth for retail and restaurant space. He said the remaining three floors of that building, plus all seven floors of an adjoining building, will become storage space…

…plans call for the approximately 100,000 square feet of retail and storage space to be complete by June. He said the apartments, which make up the remainder of the approximately 470,000-square-foot project, are scheduled to be finished in August 2020.

Apartment Community Proposed Next to Triad Golf Course

According to a recent filing with the NC Department of Environmental Quality there are plans to build a 238-unit apartment community adjacent to one of the Triad’s premier golf facilities. From the Triad Business Journal:

Koury Corp. is eyeing a 238-unit apartment complex in Grandover, according to a permit application filed with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality…

The proposed complex would consist of five buildings with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom layouts. The buildings also would have eight garages and 455 parking spaces…

Koury is proposing that the five-building complex go on the western side of the fairway, which would place it between the fairway and Koury’s planned Grandover Village shopping center, divided by the new Grandover Village Road.

Multifamily Construction Numbers Better Than Expected in May

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, new housing construction in the US rose to its highest level since 2007, and multifamily construction had a lot to do with it:

Nonetheless, housing construction appears on track to have a slightly better year than many economists had predicted, thanks in part to surprisingly strong multifamily growth.

Overall starts grew by 11% in the first five months of 2018 compared with the same period a year earlier. Multifamily starts rose 13.3% during that period, while single-family starts rose 9.8%.

But, there are challenges:

Still, builders face headwinds in the coming months. Rising lumber prices have added nearly $9,000 to the cost of a new home since January 2017, according to the National Association of Home Builders, which reported on Monday that builder confidence ticked down slightly in June.

Two New Mill-to-Apartment Projects in Greensboro

Greensboro will be home to two new mill-to-apartment conversions in the near future. First up is the Printworks complex:

The Alexander Co. will begin work in June on the 470,000-square-foot Printworks complex that once housed a fabric printing operation for Cone Mills called Proximity Print Works, which closed in 1977.

Alexander Co. plans to turn the buildings into:

  • 217 apartments using the historic character of the buildings with exposed brick, high ceilings and expansive windows. The company said 143 of those apartments will be set aside for renters earning less than 60 percent of the city’s median income.
  • 9,000-square-feet of retail space for restaurants and bars.
  • 80,000-square-feet of self-storage.
  • Outdoor and indoor parking, play areas for children and for pets, access ultimately to a proposed greenway that will link Printworks to the Revolution Mill complex to downtown a little over 2 miles away.

Next up is the Mock Judson Voehringer Co. Hosiery Mill:

At the same Feb. 20 meeting when the Greensboro City Council designated Proximity Print Works Mill as a historic site, the council also passed an ordinance designating the Mock Judson Voehringer Co. Hosiery Mill as a Guilford County landmark.

The former textile mill sits on 6.42 acres at 2610 Oakland Ave. west of UNC-Greensboro. It will be developed into about 170 apartments, including several townhouse units, with a fitness center, community room and pool.

 The building’s original masonry structure will be kept. Original windows, covered decades ago by brick, will be uncovered and restored.
Click here to read full story.

Labor Shortages, High Price of Materials Lead to Apartment Construction Delays

According to Axiometrics there will be an increase in apartment construction delays compared to last year, and two contributors are labor shortages and the high price of materials. From the Triad Business Journal:

Labor shortages in the construction industry, coupled with the high cost of building materials, has delayed more than 56,000 apartments in the United States.

The sheer volume of apartments sliding from a 2017 completion to next year has to do with the number of apartments under construction in the United States, said Jay Denton, vice president of Axiometrics, which was recently acquired by Richardson-based RealPage Inc. (Nasdaq: RP).

“If we use last year’s numbers as a guide, the supply has increased with more units under construction, but it’s taking longer for each unit to be delivered,” Denton told the Dallas Business Journal.

“It’s the same percentage of units pushed into next year, and those units are still on their way to being delivered in January or later on in 2018,” he added.

Apartments Proposed for Existing Condo Development

A local developer is seeking a rezoning in Greensboro that would allow him to add apartments to an existing condo development. From the Triad Business Journal:

Graham developer and builder Dennis Euliss wants to add 72 apartments to a 24-unit condominium building along Old Battleground Road in north Greensboro, to form one community with shared amenities.

Euliss’ request on the agenda for Monday’s Greensboro Zoning Commission would change zoning at Landon Creek condominiums from Conditional District Residential Multifamily-18 and Single Family Residential-3 to Planned Unit Development. The change would allow the developer to build 72 apartments — in addition to condos — on the undeveloped 7.83-acre property at 4493 Old Battleground…

The original three-story, 24-condo building was built in 2008.

Isaacson said Euliss believes apartments would be the best option. He said shared amenities would include an office, swimming pool and fitness center, and would require an agreement with condo owners.

“It’s more efficient to develop the property with one owner than with 72 owners,” said Isaacson.

U.S. Apartment Construction Set to Decline Despite Continued Demand

Apartment construction continues to steam along, but it is set to decline despite a continued demand for more units in cities across the US. From the Wall Street Journal:

Overall U.S. housing starts declined for the fourth time in five months in July, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Total housing starts decreased 4.8% from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.155 million.

While starts edged 0.5% lower for single-family construction, they plummeted 17.1% for construction on buildings with five or more units. Apartment construction is tapering off because of an oversupply of units, especially at the top end of the market that is causing rents to flatten in many major cities.

“I’m optimistic that single-family will catch up,“ Mr. McLaughlin said. ”It’s not going to happen this year and it’s probably not going to happen next year.”

There are immediate consequences to a pullback in multifamily buildings if single-family doesn’t immediately catch up. It could exacerbate a shortage of homes. While there is a surplus of luxury apartments in most major metropolitan areas, housing overall remains scarce.

A question not addressed in the article: where are all the construction workers going to come from to build those single family homes?

Developer Faces Uphill Battle for Zoning Approval of 144 Unit Community in Winston-Salem

A proposed apartment development in Winston-Salem, which the developer is describing as a “gateway into the city,” is facing an uphill battle. City planning staff is recommending against approval for the project, but its fate will be determined at a planning board meeting tonight (August 10, 2017).

Despite the planning staff’s recommendation, the project could get through the approval process because the developer, Daniel Donathan, has set aside 15% of the units for “reduced subsidized rentals” which addresses a key concern of city leaders: a dearth of affordable housing units in the city. From an article in the Winston-Salem Journal:

Monthly rent for the majority of the apartments is expected to range from $1,400 to $1,700.

But plans are to have 15 percent of the new apartments available “for reduced subsidized rental” at an estimated monthly rate of $650 to $750, Donathan said.

“I’m talking about having the possibility of those people that we relocate coming back into the same area,” he said.

Overall, the proposed project would result in 144 units and would be located between Peters Creek Parkway and Fourth Street, just south of Business 40.