Missing Middle Housing Urban Design Placemaking Walkability B Corp Process

An Agile, Cost-Competitive, Alternative Approach to Class A Multifamily Living Using Missing Middle Housing, Part 2

Case Study: Bungalows on the Lake at Prairie Queen, Papillion, NE

This is the second part of a two part series, based on recent conversations with our current client, Gerald S. Reimer from Urban Waters based in Omaha, NE, to discuss the Missing Middle neighborhood we planned for him. The first post introduced the project and discussed the benefits of this Missing Middle approach to a multifamily including tiered financing, tiered occupancy, and reduced absorption risk. This post will cover yield to cost efficiencies, flexible programming, and what lies ahead for Missing Middle Housing, especially in our post-pandemic world.

Yield to Cost

I asked Jerry how I should respond to potential clients who are worried about a loss of efficiencies gained from this approach (less management, smaller buildings) to those impacts they feel are inherent to building more buildings such as more external skin. Jerry is a numbers person, so I knew he had analyzed these efficiencies in detail. Based on his response Jerry is convinced that not only is this Missing Middle approach more agile, but that it can deliver to market with a competitive “yield to cost”. “Less efficiency is a wrong assumption,” Jerry states, “I feel strongly, that with careful consideration and entrepreneurial creativity, that this Missing Middle approach can be equally as profitable compared to traditional class A multifamily.”

Jerry has an assessment system where he has gone through each project element comparing Missing Middle housing to class A apartments and rated it positive, neutral, or negative for three different parties involved in the project: 1. The investor; 2. The property management company; and 3. The resident. Since the Bungalows on the Lake have become operational, Jerry noted that not a single element he evaluated at the start has created a negative assessment.

He could find no down-side for any of these three stakeholders for a Missing Middle project. “I have not been able to have this success with my conventional apartment projects.” He states, “None of them have scored with no negatives in this assessment.”  Just a note, Jerry is willing to go head to head with anyone on this topic if they want to challenge/debate/discuss these assessed trade-offs.

Adjusting Program Between Phases

In addition to this agility, Jerry is excited about the ability for him to adapt his unit mix as the project progresses between phases, which is not possible in conventional, large-building multifamily projects. After the first 39 units were built and occupied, based on market response, Jerry was able to assess unit sizes and the mix and adjust for the next phases without redesigning the project at all, due to the system Opticos had created. Jerry had underestimated baby boomer renters and their desire for ground floor, single level, larger two- and three-bedroom units. “Due to the thoughtfulness in this Missing Middle Neighborhood system, we are able to swap out multiple smaller units for larger ones to respond to this demand from downsizing boomers for this specific unit type and size without altering the master plan or needing to reconfigure infrastructure,” Jerry states.

Conclusion

Jerry feels strongly that Missing Middle approach will have a strong resonance for post-pandemic development. “I think you have hit the jackpot with this Missing Middle approach,” Jerry says of our work on the site plan and architecture for this project. An added bonus for him from the developer’s perspective is that due to the lack of shared doorways, elevators, hallways, and other common spaces in buildings, Jerry’s management costs in the Bungalows On The Lake have not increased, even with this new reality of constant disinfecting of shared spaces in his other multifamily projects, and residents regularly tell him they are happy to have their own entry to their unit.

Jerry is also thrilled about the  success of his new neighborhood in allowing residents to make it through this pandemic: Because of its neighborhood site plan, people can get outside and go for a comfortable, interesting walk through the neighborhoods, as opposed to having to walk through the parking lot in his more conventional apartment projects. In his recent visits to the site to oversee construction, he has also observed the benefits of the larger-than-industry standard balconies he chose to have us integrate into our building designs: he observed two tenants self-isolating together taking advantage of the perfect spring weather and working outside on these decks and one resident grilling on her private porch. “Thinking back on that, I should have taken pictures of this for my marketing,” Jerry jokes.

One outcome Jerry hopes to see in future multi-family development is a greater focus on human scale delivered by Bungalows on the Lake and Missing Middle Housing as opposed to the standard institutional scale prevalent in many residential projects. He feels strongly that this approach has proven itself financially and has delivered agility that’s allowed him to lower his risk and provide him with choices to respond to any new challenge that has come up, COVID 19 related or other. “An agile and cost-effective approach is hard to beat,” says Jerry, “and the Missing Middle Neighborhood system created by Opticos has delivered that for me. I can’t wait to build more of these Missing Middle projects, and I am even looking forward to selling my conventional multifamily projects to invest in more Missing Middle.”
One last bit of advice Jerry gives is the invaluable relationship he has with his mid-sized, local banks who have all been very responsive to his challenges as he prepares for the potential impacts of this pandemic.

Are you ready to apply this new, Missing Middle approach to multifamily? Or are you ready to integrate a similar Missing Middle approach to for-sale housing?  If you are interested in discussing this project in more detail with us or with Jerry, please feel to reach out to me directly at daniel.parolek@opticosdesign.com.

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