‘Generation Y’ forcing home builders to rethink projects

7 10 2008


People in their 20s — Generation Y — are changing residential real estate in Atlanta.

Gen Y is “our largest current clientele. It’s our largest future clientele,” said Patrick O’Donnell, a partner in the Lane Co., a multifamily developer.  Born from 1979 to 1996, the 80 million people in Gen Y represent more than 26 percent of the U.S. population and $1.6 trillion in earning power, according to the research firm Robert Charles Lesser & Co.

By 2015, Gen Y will be more than a third of U.S residents, said James Johnson, professor at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Their expectations are forcing developers to rethink how projects are designed, built and sold.

In Atlanta, interest in Gen Y is particularly keen because only New York and Los Angeles rate higher as places to live, Robert Charles Lesser says. And while most Gen Y folks living on their own today are renters, in four years they’ll be a home-buying force, the company says.

O’Donnell and others spoke at a recent forum called “The Impacts of Gen Y on Real Estate Development,” sponsored by the Urban Land Institute Atlanta.

Bottom line: Many in Gen Y have little interest in the lawn mowing, cul de sac life that’s characteristic of so much of Atlanta. At least for now.

Instead, Gen Y wants high-tech convenience and communication, walkability, green building standards and diversity. They’ll sacrifice space, and some will even pay more, to incorporate those qualities into their lives, real estate experts say.

That’s good news for infill redevelopment efforts. “Intown areas and inner suburbs will really remain on an upward trajectory” when the housing market turns around, said Sarah Kirsch, senior principal at Robert Charles Lesser.

Charlie Bible, 22, bought a condominium at the top of Viewpoint, a new highrise in Midtown, because of its central location, views and the sleek steel-and-glass look. And because “I love high-tech gadgets,” he said.

Bible watches ESPN and the news on small LCD screens that are part of the fitness equipment at Viewpoint. Novare Group, the developer, also installed a virtual art gallery and an online system where residents will be able to place restaurant orders or program their thermostats from remote locations.

Upgrades at Viewpoint include built-in iPod docking stations. Gen Y already is about 40 percent of the customer base for Novare, the biggest condo developer in Atlanta.

“This is a generation that has always known a computer,” said Uri Vaknin, vice president of business development at the Marketing Directors, a condo sales company. “They want these programmed lives.”

Oakland Park, a condo building in Grant Park, boasts that it’s LEED certified, meaning it has met national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. That includes floors of bamboo — a fast-growing renewable resource — and dual-flush toilets that conserve water.

Read on here.




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