Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Half Condo, Half Hotel

Meet David Hess, a 47-year-old business executive and father of three children who found himself divorced and looking for new living arrangements. He had three main criteria: a place where his children would feel at home on weekends, a location close to their mother's suburban house, and a situation that accommodated his extensive travel. Solution: He settled in AVE in Clifton, N.J., a hybrid between an apartment and an extended stay hotel.

AVE, a project of Korman Communities, is located near a mass transit center. It offers both furnished and unfurnished apartments, and tenants can sign a lease for the unfurnished units for six months or longer. The facility provides concierge services, cafe breakfasts, a fitness facility and weekly social events. Korman's six AVE projects around the country (three in New Jersey, two in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia) are evolving into small "neighborhoods," says Lea Anne Welsh, who developed the AVE concept for Korman.

Reports Antoinette Martin for the New York Times:

Dozens of no-longer-married adults, many of them with children, have signed leases for a year's term or longer at each of the complexes [Welsh] said; divorced fathers account for about 25 percent of all tenants at the 785 units in New Jersey and 508 in Pennsylvania.
The price of these units are not for the "faint of wallet," Martin observes. An unfurnished, two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite in the Clifton facility can range from $2,595 to $3,330 a month when leased on a yearly basis. That's pretty steep, but it's probably no more than many tenants would be laying out for mortgage payments on a single-family dwelling in the tonier subdivisions ringing New York City, Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., much less the cost of maid service and health club dues.

If Hess is typical, affluent Baby Boomers are leading the demand for these hyper-flexible, low-maintenance living arrangements. Divorced Boomer executives have lots of disposable income but their lives are in transition, and they are super short on time. The last thing they want is the headaches that come with maintaining a single-family house and garden. If the apartment complex provides concierge services that make life a little easier, so much the better. A flexible lease length gives them the time to look for more permanent arrangements, but they may well conclude they like the hassle-free lifestyle just fine.

Korman's price point limits the market to the top one or two percent of income earners in the country. But don't be surprised to see imitators fielding stripped-down versions of AVE -- less luxury, fewer premium services -- that package a mix of convenient location, low maintenance and extra amenities for stressed-out, time-deprived divorced moms and dads.

Just another wrinkle in the ever-changing pattern of family structures, living arrangements and housing options brought to you courtesy of the Baby Boomer generation.

(Photo credit of Korman facility in Arlington, Va.: AKA.)

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