By: Melissa Hansen
Seattle Architect, Tiscareno Associates
Developers who want to maximize their multifamily or mixed-use occupancy can’t just build in a good neighborhood. They have to deliver a building that has desirable, high-quality units and amenities; helps residents live sustainably and energy-efficiently; that aligns with the values of their residents; and has such a great atmosphere that people are eager and proud to live there. Teaming up with the right architect can help achieve this blend of livability and values for a project.
People gravitate to places that support how they want to live, work, and gather
The most consistently occupied projects are connected to the outdoors and have practical, well-laid out apartments and amenities that reflect how people live from day to day.
Both buildings of the Waterfront Place Apartments at Everett’s historic marina, for example, are oriented to bring in daylight and views of the waterfront and mountains. Large windows in the units and lobbies, well-located indoor and outdoor community spaces, and rooftop terraces provide access to stunning vistas and natural light throughout the buildings.
Each building’s gracious lobby is its own hub, with water views, a large patio, and a quiet mezzanine (The Carling), and a window-fronted counter for work, a spiral staircase, and upstairs community spaces (The Sawyer). People can shift easily among amenities that include meet-up spots for drinks, coffee, or snacks; recreation areas like club rooms, game rooms, and a gym; sheltered nooks and people-watching spaces; and functional zones like bike rooms, dog washing spaces, and mail rooms.
The apartment homes were designed to take advantage of outdoor living. Ground floor apartments have outside sitting areas that open up to the pedestrian experience, while upper level balconies capitalize on the verve of the streetscape. There are also ample outdoor terraces on the roof tops where residents can catch an amazing sunset or entertain friends.
Thanks to these and other popular features, The Sawyer was 95 percent leased in its first few months, and The Carling already has leased up quickly as well.
The more eco-friendly and energy-efficient, the better
An obvious choice given today’s economy and environmental consciousness is to design buildings to achieve sustainability certifications such as LEED, Passive House, or the National Green Building Standard.
Cove, for instance, is a mixed-used residential building designed around sustainable living in Seattle's dense Pike-Pine corridor. In this LEED Platinum® building, sustainable features are integral to the design. Solar panels serve as attractive awnings to protect against weather while also generating enough electricity to power the building’s common areas. Large areas of vegetation planted on the roof and sidewalk awnings present an enticing, nature-infused aesthetic that also filters storm water and flushes cleaner water into the city’s storm system.
High-performance windows, efficient central hot water systems, 100 percent LED lighting, and sustainably sourced and manufactured materials are all features that lower a tenant’s energy bills and reduce their environmental footprint, affirming their choice of residence.
A rigorous attention to sustainability is just one of the reasons why Cove sold for the highest per square foot value at the time and was 90 percent occupied in less than 90 days—a rental rate that has held steady since it opened in 2018.
The overall aesthetic must appeal to their sense of style
A building must go beyond just ticking boxes for desirable features, it also needs to look and feel great for people to want to live there. People prefer places of distinction and beauty, with interesting facades, shapes, artwork, and textures that stimulate interaction and generate their own kind of cachet.
A case in point is The Triangle in Redmond—six stories of 195 luxury apartments that, despite its challenging triangular site, look like the most natural use for the space. Its striking building shape has become a signature statement for the city, and the unique apartment homes in the narrow end (the most challenging to design) wound up leasing the quickest.
The Triangle was conceived to look like a high-end boutique hotel, with local original artwork extensively featured. A suspended stairwell, visible from the exterior, activates connections within the two-story lobby by visually and physically linking the main entrance with the amenities on the second floor.
The design encourages a rich and varied pedestrian experience, with wide sidewalks adjacent to retail, giving the project an urban vitality that its youthful, engaged demographic continues to embrace. The Triangle has been consistently had high occupancy rates since it opened in 2019.
A high degree of livability naturally attracts occupancy
Designing buildings reflecting what the target users seek most from their living space is a smart move for any developer who wants reliable occupancy rates for the long term. Achieving it takes teaming up with an architect to create spaces that are packed with desirable, high-quality units and amenities; integrate sustainable, energy-efficient living; and generate an attractive vibe both inside and out.
About the Author
Melissa is a passionate problem solver whose dual role as a project architect and manager of building information modeling provides an opportunity to contribute to almost every project. Her primary focus revolves around residential and mixed-use projects for tight urban spaces. Melissa’s ability to coordinate with multiple professional disciplines and regulatory agencies and her expertise in technical code analysis makes her the go-to person whenever a colleague needs a solution to an especially complex problem.
After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in architecture, focused on sustainable strategies, she honed her skills and delivered a slate of large international projects. Shortly after coming to Tiscareno, she worked on the award-winning Waterfront Place Apartments in Everett. Melissa was involved in every phase of the 266-unit project from competing for the bid to designing the two buildings to administering construction.
Tiscareno Associates is a mid-sized architecture and urban design firm devoted to creating exceptional spaces where people want to work, live, and gather. Through a deep dedication to collaboration and design excellence, we produce results that enrich communities for generations to come.