When it comes to looking for the perfect apartment, bigger is not always better…or affordable. And with the main demographic of apartment dwellers in Omaha being Generation Y—those ranging in age from 22 to 27 years-old—they are making their feelings known and developers are listening.
Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development, has been working in commercial real estate for nearly two decades and owns several apartment buildings, including The 9ines and Joslyn Lofts. He knows intimately the wants and needs of those looking for their next space to live.
“We have done condos, townhomes, row homes, historic renovations…” says Christensen, “but our focus right now is on apartments…all urban. Part of that is due to the market and part of it is due to our passion for apartments.” While the Old Market has been for years the go-to location for urban living, Christensen says that things are changing, especially with the development of Midtown Crossing. “Basically, anything east of I-680 are projects that we look at.”
With his primary customers being Generation Y, Christensen says that price is a big concern. “To make [these spaces] affordable, you’ve got to work hard on floor plans.” He explains that most developers today are designing smaller floor plans because, not only are they more reasonably priced, but “people are heading toward a no-waste type of living.”
“When you look at how homes were developed 15 years ago, you really only utilize 60 percent of your home on a daily basis. The other 40 percent you’re paying for, but not really utilizing it. It’s the same thing with apartments.”
Combine this with the fact that fewer people are living with roommates, these highly sought-after urban apartments are becoming more accessible to people who, a few years ago, could only dream of living in these locations.
Jerry Banks, portfolio director of real estate for NewStreet Properties, LLC, also works with developing and remodeling apartments, as well as retail and office spaces. The Omaha-based company owns properties all over the country, including Tiburon View and Huntington Park Apartments in Omaha,. While NewStreet does not develop urban locations and his tenants tend to range from 20- and 30-somethings to empty nesters, Banks says that his tenants are also looking for scaled-down floor plans. “We’re seeing more and more trends toward smaller units, both in studios and one bedrooms.”
Safety and security is another big focus of his tenants, says Banks. “That’s always been and will continue to be a very important renter requirement…very high on the list.”
To meet the demands of his residents, Banks says that NewStreet has been actively addressing a variety of security concerns, including changing all exterior lighting to brighter, more efficient LED bulbs, as well as implementing new, fully automated locks for all their apartments.
Banks refers to the possible security breach of buildings that have master keys or by former residents who may have had copies of keys made in the past. “None of our apartments have a master key of any type…we’ve de-mastered 100 percent of all the locks on all of our properties.” Each key is also tracked by a bar code, allowing the property owner to know who has borrowed a key and when that key was returned.
“We put a real emphasis on safety and security for our residents,” says Banks. “These are just some things that most residents don’t see and think about but just take for granted.”
Both Christensen and Banks say that their tenants are looking for convenience and ways to make their lives easier. Fitness facilities, both indoor and outdoor, as well as pet-friendly spaces and amenities, fire pits, and plenty of grilling areas for entertaining are options that NewStreet is providing to their residents.
Bluestone is exploring the options of adding a hot yoga studio, as well as the possibility of shared gaming rooms and a community kitchen that may provide cooking lessons and opportunities for socializing.
Both Christensen and Banks say that customer service is their main priority. “Going forward, everyone is going to have to look at their operation and see how they can deliver outrageous service,” says Christensen. “Because that’s what our customers get when they go to other places. They go to Starbucks…they go to Urban Outfitters…they get outrageous service. They can expect that service where they live.”