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Apartments are smaller. Amenity spaces are bigger. And as long as the kitchens and baths have top-notch finishes, tenants—
especially Millennials—are happy, according to panelists at ourBisnow Multifamily Annual Conference in DC yesterday.
Bob Kettler, Jordan Slone, and Bob Kettler at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
Kettler?s Bob Kettler (right) says his firm is running specials in Pentagon City, the R-B Corridor, and even the 'burbs to try to lease up its two-bedroom units but has no efficiencies available. Small formats, like Kettler's m.flats brand (670 SF units going up at 450 K St NW in DC) are way popular. Rooftops, he says, now have entertainment spaces, cooking spots, Zen gardens, Wi-Fi, and private dining. (Throw in a hot air balloon launch and we're sold.) Meanwhile, Harbor Group International's Jordan Slone (center, also with CohnReznick's David Kessler) says his firm's Villages at Morgan Metro near FedEx Field have mammoth 1,400 SF units that are drawing former single-family home occupiers and will post solid tenant retention themselves.

Yuri Lawrence, Mark Humphreys, and Brooke Iosue at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
Humphreys & Partners Architects' Mark Humphreys (with Ply Gem Windows' Yuri Lawrence and Humphreys' Brooke Iosue) sayssmall used to mean 500 SF, and now his company's Home Rise brand has 350 SF units. He visited his daughter at her apartment in DC and found a 24-cubic-foot fridge holding just two containers and her dishes still in boxes six months after move-in. What makes more sense for someone who's clearly not cooking at home is an under-the-counter fridge, a two-burner stove, and less cabinetry, he says.
Chris Harvey, Niles Bolton, Mike Schlegel, and Rebecca Jones at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
RD Jones' Rebecca Jones (right) says small kitchens force high design. Functionality, such as islands on casters with storage, make the premise of small units work. She says renters will overcome scale if the place looks nice. And Hord Coplan Macht's Chris Harvey(left, also with Niles Bolton Associates CEO Niles Bolton and Bozzuto Construction prez Mike Schlegel) adds that locating in a mixed-use center offers developers tons of amenities for their tenants.
Mike Schlegel and Rebecca Jones at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
Mike, whose firm is building Union Wharf in Fells Point (Mark and Rebecca both worked on that one, too), says from '08 to '09, the average size of the units Bozzuto built was 964 SF. Units delivering in the next two years are down to 866. Amenity space per unit? That almost doubled, from 20 SF to 37 SF. (Soon we'll all sleep in refrigerator boxes and have thousands of SF for barbecuing.)
Peggy White at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
Axiom Engineering's Peggy White says a month ago, engineers and construction folks were hoping the election would ring in a wave of phone calls, but it wasn't to be. Architects aren't getting construction gigs, but they tell her they're doing a lot of prospect development and conceptual designs. That means investors are kicking the tires on parcels but not yet buying. She also says she's talking to MGM, hoping to get a little action at the Natonal Harbor casino, having done the stakeout for Cordish's Maryland Live in Arundel Mills.
Mike Rosen, Michael Cohen, and Steve Rubin at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
Harkins Builders' Steve Rubin (right, with The Martin Architectural Group's Mike Rosen and CoStar's Michael Cohen) tells us his firm won the GC gig for the 270-unit Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant in Ellicott City, one of the the first new-construction continuing care retirement communities. The $16M project from RLPS Architects will have assisted- and independent-living units, including cottages surrounding the main building, and will start construction in late 2013. Mike's firm, based in Philly, worked on McHenry Row and is involved with Greenberg Gibbons' Laurel Mall redo.
Erin Miller, Andrew Vincent, and Chris Espenshade at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
JLL's Erin Miller and Chris Espenshade with AHC Greater Baltimore's Andrew Vincent tells us his organization has adjusted its valuations to rebalance yields vs expected sale price. The point is to avoid getting caught in a low interest rate bubble that erodes future value as rates rise. Chris adds that other owners and buyers are requesting such valuations from JLL, too.
speed networking at the DC JW Marriott on Nov. 19, 2012
Ever seen speed networking before? For any newbies (or veterans who are just curious), here's video from yesterday, where 100 of the 500 BMAC attendees worked the room with two-minute rapid-fire schmooze sessions.