Many developers care about energy efficiency but don’t want the expense and time needed for LEED certification. But a building can still incorporate many of the same green criteria. The Boulevard Co.’s new, 82-unit Cedar Flats, in Charlotte, N.C., takes this approach: first, with its walkable location within a few blocks of businesses, restaurants, and shops; and second, through resourceful features such as Energy Star appliances, big windows, and a bike-share program. Outside, mature trees were planted for instant lushness, another sustainable mark.
When Boulevard bought a 6-acre site in the city’s Uptown area (actually part of Charlotte’s downtown business and shopping district) in 2007, the local economy was still robust. But after the financial climate faltered a year later, the company cut back on its multibuilding master plan and developed just 1.2 acres. Yet, even after the economy recovered, the developer’s plan to secure HUD financing still didn’t work, because of a higher equity requirement. With help from newly formed local developer Delray Ventures, Boulevard broke ground in late 2014 on the four-story Cedar Flats.
Just the Right Size
When Boulevard asked Delray Ventures to co-develop Cedar Flats, Delray co-founder Daniel A. Jimenez liked both the project’s location and size. Instead of being another large building, the low-rise’s small scale could appeal to a different millennial buyer—“one who didn’t want to wait to get in and out of the garage or for an elevator,” he says. This smallness helped deliver a new product in a hot real estate market.
Even though the structure measures just 116,218 gross square feet, Jimenez and partner Ray Jones knew the building had to offer big-style amenities to compete. They focused on choices that would be popular in the warm-weather climate and among the youthful demographic: a swimming pool, fitness studio, conference/remote-work center, parking, and bike storage.
But the two men also knew they needed to offer residents some TLC and hired Rivergate KW Residential as the property’s manager. The Rivergate staff gets to know the residents (and their pets) and orchestrates popular social events such as wine tastings. The staff will roll out additional activities as more people move in, says Holly Casper, Rivergate's regional vice president. Three-quarters of the units have been leased since Cedar Flats was completed in May.
Classic and Hip
Because of the traditional Southern market, the developer and architect Studio Fusion designed a classic façade for Cedar Flats, with indigenous red brick at its base and cementitious siding painted in beige and deep blue, an appealing, progressive palette that stands out in a crowded housing field, says Ed Hickman, Studio’s managing principal.
The apartments range from 674-square-foot one-bedrooms to 1,214-square-foot two-bedrooms and feature balconies with city views, ample countertop space, open-style living areas, and easy-care vinyl-plank floors. Rents range from $1,240 to $1,999.
And demand keeps rising, says Ken Szymanski, executive director of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association. “The city isn't yet experiencing overbuilding, and lease-ups are fast,” he notes. “We have about 25 new apartment communities under construction. The share of households that rent is at an all-time high.”
Hickman agrees. “We have more baby boomers than elsewhere coming here, since they don’t want to retire and shovel snow but also want to be near children and grandchildren,” he says. “They also want more bang for their buck with their housing dollars.”
The only change Jimenez says his firm has already made in two new projects is to double the size of the fitness centers. “Based on my experience in the multifamily sector, I believe all age demographics will use a center on a frequent basis,” he says.