Maximizing ROI for Multifamily Development

20 October, 2022

How to Balance Density, Parking, and Amenities

When it comes to multifamily design and development, “projects that embrace a holistic approach early in the [development] process get a better balance of all their attributes sooner,” explains Principal Bill Rearden, PE. “That leads to a more successful project at the end of the day.”

Maximizing return on investment (ROI) for multifamily residential developments is often achieved by striking the appropriate balance between density, parking, and amenity offerings. In a recent interview with REBusinessOnline, Bohler’s Bill Rearden and Sr. Landscape Architect Project Manager Leslie Fanger, RLA offer creative approaches to achieving this balance. They discuss how starting the site planning process early, using zoning to the project’s advantage, and creating flexible, sustainable places for tenants can result in higher ROI. Here are four strategies to consider:

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1. Engage the Design Team in Site Planning and Due Diligence

“Success in multifamily is easier to achieve if the project starts with a shared team vision from the outset,” says Bill. “Bohler engages its own planning, landscape architecture, and survey teams and works with many industry partners for environmental and geotechnical due diligence.”

Collaborating with these teams as well as an architect to perform thorough due diligence, developers can make more informed decisions. “We work with the entire design team in the very early stages to understand what the configuration of a property is and what its constraints are. We know upfront any underlying zoning a property might have, so we understand what can be achieved on that property from a yield perspective,” says Bill.

From there, Bohler works to understand the client’s goals for the project – density, speed-to-market, or fit with the community. Knowing a client’s priorities helps design teams strike the ideal balance of building footprint and height, parking layout, and amenity offerings.

In developing a concept or site plan, it’s the design team’s job to ensure that developers can make the most of the site and location, and match the site’s existing features with the client’s vision.

2. Leverage Zoning Overlays to the Project’s Advantage

Overlay districts can be leveraged to balance density, parking, and amenities within multifamily developments. Typically, an overlay district allows the density and parking ratios necessary for project feasibility, while allowing more space for desired amenities. In other cases, zoning can be modified for a specific property if an overlay district does not currently exist. Text amendments, transit-oriented developments, and local programs that promote specific community types are useful tools in creating successful projects.

For example, Bill explains that “a mixed-use overlay district allows a residential component alongside a commercial component. If done correctly, these nearby stores and restaurants can function as amenities for residents.”

“In Massachusetts, the Smart Growth program rewards housing development that is both sustainable and follows green building practices,” says Leslie. “I encourage clients to take advantage of these programs that allow higher density, less parking, and additional landscaping.”

3. Create a Sense of Place

Sometimes achieving the highest return on investment involves relinquishing a small percentage of yield. For tenants, the most important aspect of their home is their sense of place. Focusing on creating this feeling for residents can help developers establish their amenities balance.

“Amenities are a major part of the decision-making process for everyone, from Generation Zers to empty nesters,” says Leslie. “Everything should be geared towards experience, from exterior seating areas to pleasant gardens and more.”

However, creating a desirable community can be achieved with minimal impact to density. One way design teams can accomplish this is by leveraging amenity areas as multipurpose spaces – like combining seating areas with rooftop gardens or incorporating patio spaces as streetscape improvements.

At Shipway 221 in New London, Connecticut, Leslie’s team took amenity design vertical, incorporating a host of amenities on the second floor to accommodate ground-floor parking.

4. Solve the Parking Equation

Parking often competes with amenities for space, and Bill and Leslie offer effective strategies for that, too.

One way to solve the parking equation, Bill explains, is to “incorporate structured parking not only for the residents but also for the public. If the project is located near transit, public/private partnerships can sometimes help to offset costs because you’re accommodating existing demand for parking.”

Similarly, in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, Leslie’s team is helping to create a community district around Polar Park, where parking connects to the surrounding community on an even greater scale. “The facility’s parking garage houses enough space for gameday fans,” Leslie explains, “but also provides parking for a nearby hotel and multifamily developments.”

Striking the proper balance for a successful multifamily development is possible. Engage your design team early and consider creative alternatives to amenity offerings and parking. This approach can help you achieve the highest ROI while delivering a highly desirable project to the community.

Read the full article on REBusinessOnline here.

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