DEVELOPERS BUILD LUXURY, BIKE-FRIENDLY BUILDINGS
The Wall Street Journal
September 24, 2014
A bike valet will offer tuneups and tire changes to spandex-clad commuters and residents at Hassalo on Eighth, a multiuse residential and office complex in Portland, Ore., expected to be completed next year. At the new Vélo North Loop, a high-end rental building in Minneapolis, tenants can use the “bike kitchen”—a bicycle repair area with tire pumps and spare chain links, as well as a bike wash. A shop with trail maps and energy bars is in the works. The Cliffs, a series of golf-resort communities in North and South Carolina, has enlisted a 17-time Tour de France rider to offer group rides for homeowners and potential buyers through the surrounding countryside of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The rising popularity of cycling is driving a new type of housing: the luxury, bike-friendly development.
As cities, suburbs and rural communities race to add bike-share programs and lanes and trails for cyclists, developers and home builders are rolling out amenities designed to woo more bike riders and stand out from the competition. And by bulking up on bike-friendly amenities, developers can go after both ends of the demographic spectrum—20- and 30-somethings who want to live closer to work as well as older baby boomers looking for a more walkable, bike-able lifestyle.
Seattle’s Velo building in Fremont is built right off the Burke-Gilman bike and recreation trail. Opening this weekend, the 171-unit building, like Vélo North Loop, takes its name from the French word for bicycle (the two buildings are unrelated). It offers a bike-maintenance area as well as a bike wash and storage, both in the garage and on the main level. Apartments will also have bike-storage niches.
Jim Atkins, chief operating officer and managing director of Mack Urban, Velo Fremont’s developer, says the building was built with wider hallways and doorways so residents can wheel their bikes to and from their units. Lobby fabrics and floor materials were chosen in part because they could withstand wear from bike tires. Even the artwork in the building has a cycling theme.
Rents in the building range from $1,600 for one-bedroom apartments to $2,495 for two-bedrooms. Mr. Atkins estimates that 85% of renters will be bringing bikes.
Nationally, commuting by bike grew by 62% between 2000 and 2013 in the U.S., according to the League of American Bicyclists. In 2002, there were seven bike-sharing programs world-wide offering subscription-based, short-term bike rentals, according to MetroBike, a bike-sharing consultancy. Today, there are 750.
CycleHop, a company that funds, plans and operates bike-share programs, says it is starting to get requests from developers who want to install small-scale bike-share facilities. “Eventually, the bike station on their property will be no different from the workout room or the swimming pool. You’ll just expect it,” says Josh Squire, the company’s founder.
When it opens in the summer of 2016, the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Miami Beach will have a bike-share program from CycleHop in which residents and their guests can unlock and reserve bikes from bike racks on the property using a smartphone application. Membership will be included as part of homeowner’s association fees, which range from $1,780 to $13,000 a month and cover numerous other amenities. Prices will start at $2 million, going up to $35 million for penthouses.
In some cities, bike infrastructure is prompting real-estate development. Many of the newest luxury apartment and condo buildings in Minneapolis are rising along the city’s Midtown Greenway, a 5½-mile-long bike and pedestrian trail converted from an abandoned rail corridor. Soren Jensen, the executive director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, says that historically, buildings in the area were constructed with main entrances facing vehicular roadways.
But in the past few years, newer buildings are installing their main entrances off the trail, and some developers have secured even more direct access. The developers of a large commercial complex and Flux, a 216-unit luxury apartment building, partnered with the county to build a $400,000 ramp and pedestrian bridge that allows direct biking or walking access from the Greenway to the apartment building, offices and restaurant plaza, says Thatcher Imboden, who manages transit-oriented development for the county.
Vélo North Loop pitches its proximity to major bike routes. The building’s logo is a bike wheel, and its leasing brochure calls the building “Minneapolis’s ultimate hub for those seeking a balanced living experience in the heart of America’s premiere bike city.” Rents in the 101-unit building range from $1,195 a month for studios to $2,775 for two-bedrooms.
Randy Manthey, who works in new-store development for Target, moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the building in July with his wife, Christine Anderson. The empty-nesters sold their home in a nearby suburb they’d owned for 32 years. Mr. Manthey, a 60-year-old avid biker, says he chose the building because it is a short ride from his office and in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.”We probably use the car about half as much,” he says, adding that the building’s extensive bike-storage area has another benefit: He doesn’t see bikes cluttering balconies and hallways.
Portland, Ore., recently increased its requirements for bike storage. Areas around its Central Business District must have 1½ long-term bike parking spaces per apartment unit or condo, up from one space for every four units. That means Hassalo on Eighth, the Portland complex with 657 apartments across three buildings, must include 987 long-term bike-parking spaces. The architects also decided to add another 300 additional stalls for community members and commuters.
Kyle Andersen, of GBD Architects, the project’s lead designer, says he looked to cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam for inspiration. The resulting plan calls for a “bike hub” on a lower level that will include lockers, showers, repair stations and a bike valet. One of the apartment buildings will also include bike parking on each floor, so residents can park their most expensive rides down the hallway.
Biking amenities are also a way for developers to add an active sheen to an existing resort or golf community. The Viceroy Snowmass Resort & Residences, a 152-unit luxury-condo hotel, launched a biking program over the summer in which owners and guests can partner with pro cyclists for guided group rides. The resort also offers personal training, fitness advice and meal planning for cyclists. Prices range from $279,000 for studios to over $2.249 million for three-bedroom condos and penthouses.
The Cliffs, the series of communities in the Blue Ridge Mountains, recently announced a partnership with George Hincapie, a retired professional cyclist who lives in the area. Mr. Hincapie will offer guided rides eight times a year for homeowners and potential buyers.
“Cycling is on the rise in the Cliffs and in the north state. I see a lot of cyclists on the road,” says resident Bob DiBella, a 58-year-old retired accounting executive from Pittsburgh. He says he was drawn to the area because it is a great place for road biking and triathlon training.
Bicycles are also just plain trendy. Gotham West, a 550-unit luxury rental building in New York that opened last year, boasts a NYC Velo bike shop on the ground floor along with foodie stops like Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop and Blue Bottle Coffee. Residents will have access to a bike porter concierge at Velo, where they can store bikes and get tuneups.
At Kestral, a new rental building in Brooklyn, there are 12 bikes emblazoned with the building’s logo that residents will be able to borrow. While the building is under construction, the developer has hired marketers to ride the bikes to the farmer’s market nearby to hand out brochures and talk about the building. Kestral’s studios start at $1,662 a month and its three-bedrooms will be priced around $4,569.