COLUMBUS REALTY Trust

Formerly considered a lifestyle main-ly for the “twentysomething” bunch not ready for home ownership, apart ment housing is gaining ground as a popular way to live for folks of all ages- a market now known as renters-by-choice.

With spacious living quarters, high-tech amenities, scenic outdoor courtyards and pedestrian friendly walkways, apartment living in Dallas offers dwellers an array of viable options.

Much of the growth, particularly in the Uptown area just north of the Dallas’ central business district, is being fueled by the work of Columbus Realty Trust. The developer is the biggest landlord in Uptown, and with 6,198 units total, the area’s leading owner of luxury apartments.

Columbus communities include The Meridian and The Worfhington, both in the historic State-Thomas neighborhood adjacent to Uptown, The Vintage of Uptown, The Residences on McKinney, and Uptown Village as well as Lakeshore Apartments in the Las Colinas Urban Center.

Robert Shaw, chief executive officer of Columbus Realty Trust, said quality in apartment living today is unlike any previously seen. “There will be good value for residents over the next couple of years. It should make the Metroplex an exciting luxury apartment market,” said Shaw.

The renter-by-choice market – people who elect to rent not out of economic necessity, but because it fits their lifestyle – is changing multi-family living.

It is this real estate sector Columbus aims to fill by meeting, what Shaw believes, are six core basic needs of residents: Prestige, piece of mind, physical and social needs, saving time and value-added services.

“The upscale apartment resident wants to live in close proximity to where they work, and feel safe with buildings that are ’self-policed.’ Piece of mind is of paramount concern to residents,” said Shaw.

Shaw also believes the social needs of tenants in apartments are often overlooked by developers. “They need the ability to get to know their neighbors, both within the property and neighborhood.”

“The development should not be isolated, but instead help create a sustainable neighborhood as our residents are doing. They help form neighborhood associations and they enjoy socializing together.”

Shaw believes gated communities are the wrong way to go. At Columbus, the emphasis is on secure buildings, with public areas pedestrian friendly, and well lit.

’The public spaces need to be pleasant spaces for people to interact,” said Shaw. “When residents go directly from their car into their apartment, they lose that opportunity.”

While many developers concentrate on offering the next bell or whistle -washer and dryers, microwaves and water purifiers -apartment dwellers instead are seeking a sense of permanence in their quarters, said Shaw.

Loft style apartments, units with high ceilings and big steel-sash industrial windows and town homes with individual garages and entryways for renters are just a few of the trends in the marketplace.

After several years of occupancy growth, Shaw sees supply catching up with demand which causes him concern. With higher rates slowing the economy and further new supply coming online, he doesn’t expect to see much increase in multi-family occupancy in the year ahead.

As long as capital continues to be available to fund projects, Shaw predicts a repeat of early days of oversupply. The resulting disconnection between long-term property owners such as Columbus versus “merchant builders” who are capital driven and build only for resale.

While you won’t see rent increases, it is not always a good thing for residents, he said. “Overbuilding ultimately impacts everyone,” said Shaw. “It is not in residents best interest to have property owners not making enough money to maintain the property.”

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