Region is rich in luxury multifamily space

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By Lydia Wheeler

The Breeden Co. only builds with bells and whistles.

Since launching a new luxury apartment rental brand called Enriched Lifestyle Community in 2011, the Virginia Beach-based real estate development firm said it is only building multifamily developments with amenities, such as outdoor living spaces that include fireplaces, pools, flat-screen TVs and movie theaters.

Earlier this month, the company received the Best Lifestyle Programming award for multifamily communities from the National Association of Home Builders for its Cambria at Cornerstone development in Virginia Beach. The category is new to this year’s National Association of Home Builder Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Awards.

Construction of the first 276 units of the two-phased Cambria at Cornerstone was completed in June 2012. The remaining 180 luxury apartments will be finished by spring 2014. Rental rates for the mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments range from $1,200 to $1,600 a month.

Exterior amenities include private sunrooms, balconies and patios; outdoor living rooms in the courtyards that have fireplaces with mounted televisions; outdoor reading rooms with rose gardens; two 24-hour fitness centers; two resort-style swimming pools; a playground with a pavilion; an outdoor stage for fitness classes and concerts; and an outdoor movie screen that drops down by the pool.

If those facilities aren’t enough, Breeden Co. also offers what it calls “lifestyle programming” – planned monthly events like wine tastings and movie nights to help residents interact.

“We travel around the country extensively,” said Ramon Breeden Jr., company founder and CEO. “Torrey Breeden, my son, gets ideas from Florida and California. The more modern-type projects have these things, and these amenities require more capital.”

The Breeden Co.’s total investment in the Cambria project is about $65 million. The first phase is already fully leased.

“The multifamily market has always done well for us,” Breeden said, “if you manage the apartment well and treat your tenants well.”

The company is planning to build another 150 luxury apartments in an Enriched Lifestyle Community surrounding an indoor skydiving facility on 25th Street at the Oceanfront.

The 10,000-square-foot iFly facility – a 30-by-30-foot wind tunnel that simulates sky diving – will be managed by The Breeden Co. Rental rates for the 150 luxury apartments, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedrooms, will range from $1,200 to $2,400. The $58 million development of the Virginia Beach block from Pacific to Arctic avenues and 25th to 24th streets will also include a 574-space parking garage. Breeden said funding for the development is fully in place and construction should start in the next 30 days.

“We expect to be open before Memorial Day 2014,” he said.

In Chesapeake the company broke ground on the Red Knot at Edinburgh – 336 apartments off Route 168. The project is expected to be completed in June 2015.

Construction of Yorktown Arch – 92 townhouses, each with an attached garage, in Yorktown – is also under way. Tenants will start occupying those homes in February 2014.

Breeden isn’t the only company building luxury interior and exterior living spaces in Hampton Roads.

Richmond-based Spy Rock Real Estate Group and Harmony Investments of Virginia Beach started leasing apartments at Indigo 19 in Virginia Beach in May.

The 196-unit apartment complex at 1940 Pavilion Drive has parking and 2,500 square feet of commercial space still available on the ground floor. Above the ground level sit two courtyards – one with a pool, fire pit, grilling stations and outdoor living room. The other is a quiet space with a large fountain and outdoor seating areas.

The $30 million development includes a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Rental rates range from $1,050 to $1,800. The building, expected to be completed in December, will have a two-story clubhouse with pool tables, a shuffleboard court, eight TVs, a bar, several living rooms and a business center.

Spy Rock also has partnered with Holladay Corp. to build the Element at Ghent, 164 units between 17th and 18th streets on the outermost edge of Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood. The $25 million development is expected to be completed by fall 2014. Amenities include a rooftop deck and a courtyard with grilling stations, a fire pit, outdoor seating and a pool.

Though an established trend in bigger markets like D.C. and Atlanta, luxury outdoor spaces are relatively new to Hampton Roads, according to Andrew Basham, a principal at Sky Rock, who said residents have started wanting more for their rent than just an apartment.

“I think Breeden, Kotarides [Developers] and [S.L.] Nusbaum have been building apartment communities with amenities for a while,” Basham said. “It’s just that the demographic we see as our primary resident today is more interested in socializing and interaction with neighbors than perhaps we’ve seen historically.”

The Breeden Co.’s recent award shows Hampton Roads has not only caught on to the trend of luxury indoor and outdoor multifamily spaces, it has companies doing it better than anyone else nationally.

“That award is pretty significant,” Breeden said. “It brings a lot of recognition to the Tidewater area.”

Others in the multifamily market say luxury building might be short-lived.

“Higher-end I think is going to loosen up a bit,” said Taylor Franklin, president and COO of The Franklin Johnston Group. “You have to have a lot of job growth in order to build more units.”

Instead, the developer and multifamily management company based in Virginia Beach is building higher-end workforce housing.

Under construction now is the first phase of The Pointe at Pickett Farms – 120 units off Raby Road and Virginia Beach Boulevard in Norfolk. Rental rates for the mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units will range from $650 to $950 a month. They are expected to open this spring.

Construction of the second phase of the $39 million project will be an additional 180 units starting late summer 2014.

“From the affordable housing side, there haven’t been any new projects built that are affordable and nice in quality,” Franklin said. “Everything being built is luxury high-end.”

The Franklin Johnston Group says it’s building some of those too. The company recently finished Spring Water Apartments – 252 units on Colgin Drive in Virginia Beach.

The $34 million development opened in April. Amenities include a tanning room, massage room, bowling alley, dog park, swimming pool with pool- side cabana daybeds, built-in grills and fire pits.

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