The Georgia complex in Downtown Fresno was designed by Paul Halajian Architects.
Written by Frank Lopez
In the last decade, more Americans are calling apartments home, sweet home.
The U.S. apartment stock grew by more than 2 million units in the last ten years, and according to real estate technology and analytics firm RealPage, completions are expected to rise as the 2020 decade continues.
A July report prepared by commercial brokerage Marcus & Millichap finds the Fresno multifamily market is reporting strong fundamentals, with an all-time-low vacancy rate of 1.6% — one of the lowest in the nation.
With no expectation of vacancy decreasing in the near to medium term, rent growth spiked with an 11.2% increase year-over-year.
According to the report, there are currently 757 units under construction in the Fresno area.
The popularity of apartment living is bringing new trends in architecture and design units and complexes.
Developers and architects are putting more focus on health and wellness by including pools, green spaces and common rooms for residents. Other popular trends include more natural light, neutral color palettes and softer materials.
The team at Paul Halajian Architects in Clovis design residential, community, and commercial projects, including The Georgia complex in Downtown Fresno, Tempranillo Apartment Homes in Clovis and the H-Street Lofts in Fresno.
Paul Halajian, principal architect, said they have seen an expansion in the number of multifamily projects from clients in the last three years, especially with California’s housing shortage.
Along with younger consumers waiting longer to invest in a house, Halajian said that more people want newer apartments than what is available in the ageing housing stock, with developers catering to those demands.
As more people look for apartments, developers are trying to provide the features renters want.
“There is a greater need for amenities — more spaces where you could socialize with your neighbors. A biz hub or place that you could work from home outside of your unit, and gyms and other things for health, are gaining popularity,” Halajian said.
In apartment units, kitchens are getting bigger and appliances are getting better, Halajian said.
Floor plans include more open spaces with less walls and borders — a design trend that he noted leads to kitchens becoming more integrated with living rooms spaces.
Architects and designers are incorporating materials such as stone and wood into apartment design, as well as more soothing, earth tone colors and luxury vinyl tile — vinyl flooring with a realistic 3D photo layer of wood or stone.
Due to price increases in building materials, Halajian said there is a greater emphasis on minimizing waste in construction, with more regulations regarding the disposal of debris.
Though not a new trend in American design or architecture, there is a returning trend of mixed-use development. Locally, Halajian said many developers are weary of it. He does see it eventually becoming a trend in Fresno.
Porches and patios are a desired feature for apartments, especially in downtown settings. Halajian’s multi-family housing projects in Downtown Fresno feature porches, which help create a semi-public space in a dwelling.
“The trend that’s coming is having the ability to live and work from home,” Halajian said. “Live-work units that have a store, a place for you to work or sell a product on a ground floor. Social spaces that allow people who live in a particular setting to get to know one other are going to become more important and better designed,” Halajian said.
Reza Assemi has been active building housing and mixed-use projects in Downtown Fresno for over two decades. Assemi developed the Mural District Lofts in Downtown Fresno, which broke ground recently, and has another multifamily, mixed-use development currently in the entitlement stage.
Assemi said he is a very hands-on developer who doesn’t approach his projects with a “cookie-cutter.” Design is unique to each of his projects.
For the loft projects, Assemi incorporates patios, open floor space plans and larger windows for more natural light. Assemi does admit that the urban design construction utilized for his downtown projects is more expensive than a more traditional apartment complex.
Assemi said he considers the rising cost of materials during the design phase, and tries to make unique spaces that you can’t find in other areas of town.
“I think that’s why the fabric of downtown is unique,” Assemi said. “You have to think of the setting you’re in, and projects need to be unique to the area they are in. For example, I wouldn’t build what I build downtown in a different part of Fresno—it wouldn’t sit right.”