Meet the Macro-Unit Apartment

With housing affordability becoming an increasingly pressing issue across the country it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the Macro-Unit concept, which sounds very similar to what apartment developers serving the student housing market near college campuses have been building for years.

While decreasing the size of the units is one solution for maintaining affordable rents, not all renters want to live in a tiny apartment by themselves. “The millennial generation thrives on the social interaction of internet sites like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, and by hanging out with groups of friends at coffee shops, breweries and food halls. KTGY’s Macro-Unit is a new community living solution that integrates a connection to a greater social network by combining the modest rent associated with small square footage per resident, with the social interaction of shared common living spaces,” said Senden.

By minimizing the square footage of the private bedrooms and bathrooms, a larger space can be devoted to the common kitchen and living areas, says Senden. “A variety of seating configurations have been incorporated into the living area to serve multiple people or groups of people engaging in smaller conversations. The lounge seating area in the living room connects through a glass roll-up garage-style door to the large outdoor balcony, expanding the area of the living space. The kitchen provides duplicate appliances to better serve all 11 residents. Two refrigerators, two dishwashers, two microwaves and two ovens make simultaneous cooking projects possible. Booth and bar seating with built-in charging stations are designed for eating and socializing, as well as providing a location for residents to work from home,” Senden stated.

It’ll be interesting to see if this catches on, and what kind of local zoning obstacles developers might face if they pursue the concept.

Country’s Oldest Mall Now Features Apartments

How’s this for a cool adaptive reuse of a property?

The Providence Arcade is the oldest shopping mall in America, but now has a whole new purpose. Although it was bankrupted and abandoned for quite some time, this National Historic Landmark is open for business once more. However, now the mall sells only one thing – adorable tiny homes!

Developer Evan Granoff bought the property in 2005, with the hopes that he could restore the beautiful building to its former glory. And he did exactly that! He converted the upper levels into 48 tiny apartment homes, while the lower promenade is reserved for boutique shops. No major chain stores are allowed here! The smallest units only cost $550 per month, which is a steal for downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

Bunker Living

In what might be the most unique “apartment” living situation in the world, over one million people in China live in nuclear bunkers built during the Cold War era. From National Geographic:

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

Now when night falls, more than a million people—mostly migrant workers and students from rural areas—vanish from Beijing’s bustling streets into the underground universe, little known to the world above…

Photo Source: National Geographic PHOTOGRAPH BY ANTONIO FACCILONGO

The living conditions in the bunkers are indeed harsh. Although they were built with electricity, plumbing and a sewage system in order to shelter people for months in wartime or fallout, the lack of proper ventilation makes the air stagnant and moldy. Residents share kitchens and restrooms that are often cramped and unsanitary.

Photo Source: National Geographic PHOTOGRAPH BY ANTONIO FACCILONGO

A Different On Site Living Experience

How’s this for a different kind of on site living experience?

In the early to mid twentieth century, the majority of the city’s libraries had live-in superintendents. Like the superintendents who still live in many of the city’s residential buildings, these caretakers both worked and lived in the buildings for which they were responsible. This meant that for decades, behind the stacks, meals were cooked, baths and showers were taken, and bedtime stories were read. And yes, families living in the city’s libraries typically did have access to the stacks at night—an added bonus if they happened to need a new bedtime book after hours…

The family, who were joined by Rose Mary’s younger brother Terrence in 1945, lived in the library until Patrick Thornberry retired as the building’s superintendent in 1967. Their home was in what the library now refers to as the “closed stack” (a locked stack reserved for rare books). While the closed stack is currently sealed off to daylight to protect its rare contents, when the Thornberrys lived in the library, it was a light-filled and vibrant space. But the family was by no means confined to their apartment. They also enjoyed a penthouse-level garden and after hours, access to the library’s stacks and large reference rooms too.


Southeastern Building Wins Historical Rehabilitation Award

BSC Holdings’ extensive work to bring the Southeastern Building in Greensboro back to life has been recognized with a state-wide award:

The historic Southeastern Building in downtown Greensboro described as the city’s first skyscraper has won the Great Historic Rehabilitation Award from the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The property, which was nominated for the award by the city’s planning department, earned more public votes for the title than the six other entries from across the state. The online contest ran May 2-13.

If you’d like to see a slideshow of the project you can find it at the Southeastern Building’s website.

The Residences @ the RJ Reynolds Building Set to Debut

The Winston-Salem Journal ran a front-page story in their Sunday edition yesterday about the imminent opening of the Residences @ the RJ Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem. Here are just a few tidbits:

The Residences @ the R.J. Reynolds Building expects to have its first dwellers “in legendary living” in early March, with the bulk moving in by late summer, said Chris Girard, a sales and marketing official with developer PMC Property Group.

PMC provided the Journal with a look at the renovations occurring on the seventh through 19th floors of the historic “Grand Old Lady.” Those include one- and two-bedroom apartment models, and social and recreational amenities that residents will share with guests in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel…

There will be 20 units each on floors seven through 10, and six units each on floors 11 through 19 of the main tower. Because of superstitions of the time, there is no 13th floor.

Girard said 65 percent of the units will be one bedroom and 35 percent two bedrooms. Monthly rent starts at $995 for a one-bedroom unit and average $1,385 for a two-bedroom unit.

Click here to see a short video that accompanies the story.


The Lofts at White Furniture Pre-Leasing in Mebane

From a story on Fox 8 News:

The Lofts at White Furniture are now leasing more than 150 apartments, with an expected move-in date of March 1, 2016.

D3 Development in Durham purchased the property and is in the process of renovating it.

“We really felt like there was a great opportunity here,” said Shannon Moser, project manager for D3 Development. “Downtown Mebane is growing like crazy. And it’s really unique to find a historic building in downtown where you can actually walk out of the building and walk right into a downtown environment.”

Moser said the company is committed to providing renters with high-end, modern amenities while still maintaining the building’s original character and charm.

“We feel like there is a market with people who live all the way from Greensboro to Durham as well as people in Mebane who would like to downsize and live in an apartment that has great amenities and high-end features,” Moser said.

Rents will start at $795 and you can visit the community’s website at

Office Parks Reimagined As Walkable Communities

Developers are beginning to see suburban office parks as an opportunity to create urban-style communities. From the Wall Street Journal:

The latest example is in Minnetonka, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. There, Roers Investments LLC and CPM Cos. want to demolish two vacant warehouses to build a 274-unit luxury-apartment project in the middle of the 600-acre Opus II Business Park.

The $62 million development, which will include a fitness center, rooftop patio, fire pit and underground, heated parking, will feature apartments with monthly rents that range from $1,155 for a studio to $2,520 for a two-bedroom unit.

Adding apartments to corporate parks has numerous advantages for developers, according to Maureen McAvey, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington. First, most corporate parks are owned by a single entity, making it easier for developers to aggregate the parcels needed to build. With land increasingly scarce in urban and suburban locations, business parks have an abundance of underused space. Corporate parks also usually have easy access to major highways and mass transit, as well as infrastructure such as roads and utilities, which make redevelopment easier and less expensive.

And converting corporate parks into walkable communities helps increase the property value:

Walkability adds value, even to commercial properties. According to data firm Real Capital Analytics, prices for properties in central business districts have risen 125% over the past decade, but suburban properties that are also considered highly walkable are up 43%. Comparatively, prices are up just 21% to 22% for properties in suburban locations that are somewhat walkable or car-dependent.

From Courthouse to Apartments

The Winston-Salem Journal has a good article about the transformation of the old Forsyth courthouse into 58 class-A apartments:

Old merges with new, as tenants walk across original marble floors or use an intricately-designed staircase still intact from the 1896 segment of the building. A star-shaped design in the floor on the Third Street side of the building has been incorporated into the building’s logo.

The large courtroom has been transformed into amenity space for tenants, with a kitchen, gym and lounge room. But the judicial bench and flags remain, as well as the original wood paneling, acoustical tile and crown molding.

“(It’s a) great space for them to hang out and enjoy the building, but also preserve the history of what this originally was,” said Amy Foster, regional manager for Clachan Properties…

The apartments have modern designs and appliances, but they each have their own unique character. One has an intricate historic doorframe as an entrance, while another has exposed brick walls from the bell tower and steel truss beams. The building’s smaller courtroom was transformed into two apartment units.

Clachan also developed the Winston Factory Lofts, but Coleman said the courthouse project was much different.

Coleman said, “In an old factory it’s wide open spaces. You really have maximum flexibility on what you can do. In the courthouse, you have to work within the confines of the building. For example, you can’t really modify the hallways, and there’s existing walls all over the place that have to be … integrated into the overall design of the building.”

The property is called 50 West Fourth and you can read more about the project on the Journal’s site.