The suburbs are luring a greater number of renters, especially renters by choice who are ready to downsize their homes but don’t want to leave the communities in which they’ve long lived.
A company serving this multifamily building boom in the suburbs? Wingspan Development Group, which has offices in Mount Prospect, Illinois, and Milwaukee.
Wingspan is currently developing two multifamily projects in the Milwaukee suburbs, one in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and the other in Oak Creek. Demand is already high for both projects, evidence that consumers’ appetite for new-construction apartment units in the suburbs is far from peaking.
The Ruby at Brookfield Square will bring 231 luxury apartment units to the suburb of Brookfield, about 10 miles west of Milwaukee. The community will feature two four-story buildings connected by a skybridge and will be the first new Class-A rental property in Brookfield since 2019.
Hub13 will bring 300 multifamily units to Oak Creek, just south of Milwaukee. It will be one of the first Class-A rental communities in the community that boasts resort-style amenities including a stand-alone clubhouse and Zen Garden.
Chris Coleman, vice president of development for Wingspan, said that both projects are bringing something new to their markets. And both projects are just one more sign, he said, that renters are hunting for urban-style amenities in suburban apartment developments.
The Ruby at Brookfield Square is rising from the site of a former Toys “R” Us store in Brookfield. Coleman said that the property will include amenities that would have been impossible for renters to find in Brookfield until recently.
“These amenities wouldn’t exist here in buildings that were built as recently as 10 years ago,” Coleman said. “Residents today demand a higher level of comfort. It’s almost like living at a resort. They are truly looking for a lifestyle.”
Amenities offered by the Ruby include a pool with sundeck, club room, gaming room and golf simulator. And for those residents working from home, the Ruby at Brookfield Square offers hoteling suites from which renters can work if they don’t want to spend an entire day working from their units.
Coleman says that the work-from-home suites are especially important in new apartment developments today.
“In some form or fashion, remote working will survive COVID,” Coleman said. “Some people are still working fully remote. Some are in the office two days and working remotely three. A lot of people think working remotely is attractive because it reduces your commuting time. It allows you to be more productive. A lot of renters are looking for that extra space in which they can work.”
Hub13 also offers a top-level amenities package, Coleman said. But the development differs from the Ruby at Brookfield Square in that it looks more like a traditional suburban multifamily property in which the different buildings are spread across the property.
But like the Ruby, Hub13 offers amenities such as a fitness center, pool, yoga studio and club house. It also offers a wine room. And for those looking for more outdoors space – something that has been become even more attractive during the COVID-19 pandemic – Hub13 sits adjacent to about 10 acres of natural wooded preserve land.
Coleman expects to see more projects like Hub13 and the Ruby at Brookfield Square as more people become renters by choice.
“There are so many more renters today who are renting because they want to, not because they have to,” Coleman said. “You have people, say, who have lived for years in a community like Brookfield. They’ve raised their families here. They like Brookfield, but they no longer want to maintain a large home. They want to stay in the community they love but they want to stay in a place that doesn’t require all that maintenance. This is a growing new demographic of renters. It’s something we’ve not seen before.”
But these renters by choice aren’t always older, Coleman said. Many younger people enjoy the amenities of the city but are also starting families. They want the convenience of the suburbs and are looking for modern apartment developments in suburban communities with strong schools, walkable downtowns and public transportation options.
“They don’t want to pay the price to live in an urban area when we can deliver the similar amenities and lifestyles, and sometimes a better lifestyle, at a lower price,” Coleman said.