Small Apartments Continue To Be A Growing Trend

Denver might not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of high-density living or closet-sized apartments. In fact, on the list of cities that have the most apartments for rent under 400 square feet, Denver doesn’t even make it into the top 10.

But that could be changing.

The Mile High city is slated to get its first micro apartment project next summer, when Hotel VQ, near Mile High Stadium, is transformed into the Turntable Studios. The 179 units will range in size from 330 square-feet to 820 square-feet and include a variety of amenities.

“It is all about location,” said Melissa Rummel, a project manager with Nichols Partnership, one of the company’s spearheading the project.

Those hoping to live in Denver’s downtown core typically can’t find much for rent under $1,300. Studios in the newly redesigned hotel will rent for under $1,000.

“There is nothing like it out there,” Rummel said.

The Turntable is expected to attract students attending nearby Denver colleges, young professionals and even baby boomers who are willing to downsize space in exchange for location and affordability.

Small Apartments are Big News

With the small apartment trend sweeping the nation everyone from city councilors in Seattle, to apartment developers in Washington DC are looking at ways to regulate the size of units and attract renters.

Large, multifamily apartment developers like AvalonBay Communities decided to capitalize on the trend a few years ago when it launched its AVA brand targeting younger renters in urban areas.

While not technically considered “micro-apartments”, the AVA communities are smaller than AvalonBay’s Avalon branded apartments and tucked into burgeoning neighborhoods within densely packed cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington D.C. The company’s newest project will come online this summer in Downtown Brooklyn.

“The essence of this brand appeals to someone who wants to be in the center of it all,” said Andrew Beck, Development Manager with AvalonBay. “Close to work, close to transit and close to where their social life is. That is the value proposition. We’ve focused on making the smaller apartments more livable, rather than just smaller.”

Local and Memorable

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Photo credit: The Shelby

With so many mixed-use apartment developers getting in on the action, Rebecca Snyder, a partner with Insight Property Group, said that many developers are getting caught up in what she calls an “amenities arms race” to draw millennial renters to their properties.

“With the customer looking at five to ten apartments, we are really focused on how do you make those spaces memorable, where people want to spend time,” Snyder said.

Insight’s latest project, The Shelby located in Alexandria, Virginia, is a good example of how a small space can make a big impact. The company commissioned more than 40 local artists to provide original art for the building and much time and attention was spent on things like lighting and feel.

A gym, Crossfit area, pool tables, bike storage, bike fixit station and electric car charging station also make the property stand out.

Making Miniature Amenities

GE Micro010
Photo credit: GE Appliances

While communal amenities are ample in most newer urban apartment complexes, appliance giant GE is working on figuring out how to get the most sought after amenities to fit into tiny rentals.

Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE has been researching, designing and prototyping products for a micro kitchen concept for the last three years.

“I kept hearing talk of about ‘apodments’, apartments between 250 and 300 square feet.” he said.

Lenzi and his team began sketching out plans for appliances that could fit into those small spaces. The result is a two-foot-wide, six-foot-long customizable micro kitchen that includes a microwave oven, conventional oven, convertible refrigerator and freezer and dishwasher which are all drawer based.

GE Micro025
Photo credit: GE Appliances

The design will be put into units in January for beta testing and pending results, could start hitting high-density markets like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle by next year.

GE designers are also taking a crack at perhaps one of the most coveted in-apartment amenities, a washer and dryer unit.

But don’t trade in your laundromat change for dollars just yet, Lenzi said that one is still a ways off as engineering studies are underway.

Lead photo credit: JG Johnson Architects