Richard Florida comments on an article in the WSJ Online (subscription req’d) in which condo developers are finding that condos in urban areas targeted to young singles are attracting empty nesters in large numbers.
“Mr. Schaefer’s Bristol Development Group is pitching the project, Velocity, to twenty- and thirtysomething professionals willing to trade space (as little as 535 square feet) for affordability (as low as $165,000) and a chance to live in a hot urban neighborhood. Developers across the country are appealing to young buyers — many of them single, almost all without children — with buildings that promise not just an affordable first home but also a great social life. The amenities tell the story: videogame lounges and outdoor fire pits, rooftop soaking tubs, on-site bars and poolside drinks.
But it’s not so easy to control demographics in the open market. Some of the buildings are drawing unexpected buyers: people old enough to be the parents of the kids down the hall. And that’s leading to territorial conflicts, social snubs — even planned boardroom coups.
Such concerns are multiplying as the new buildings fill up with a mix of residents who range broadly in age. In Denver, about half of the units in the recently completed Glass House sold to empty-nesters, despite youth-oriented amenities such as a videogame lounge and a Web site that promises “cool bars” and “a fresh vibe.” In New York, even a hot tub above the lobby and a provocative marketing campaign couldn’t keep boomers away from William Beaver House, slated to open next year. And when Viridian opened last October in Nashville, most locals expected the high-rise to draw young buyers looking for a chance to live downtown. It did, but it also attracted people like Julie Lammel, a speech pathologist in her early 50s who moved there from a suburb where most of her neighbors were in her own age group.”
This is an excellent example of ‘best laid plans’ not turning out as expected. But sometimes that’s a good thing. In this case the developers have found an additional market for their product through no action on their part. The trick will be finding ways to keep both groups – young singles and empty nesters – happy. If they can do so (in other words, change the strategy on the fly) they will be able to sell more and sell faster. And what business owner wouldn’t be happy doing that?