Four U.S. micro-apartment projects to watch in 2015

Four U.S. micro-apartment projects to watch in 2015

by ADAM HENGELS, engineer and real estate disruptor 

In 2014, we heard a lot more talk about micro-apartments than we saw action. Nonetheless, a few developments promise more than words in 2015. Below are some notable projects that will be completed this year, or will have gone through approvals and have construction well underway.

The Panoramic, SoMa, San Francisco

In 2012, Patrick Kennedy's Panoramic Interests completed a 23 micro-unit project, which was built offsite and assembled in SoMa ('South of Market'). The LEED Platinum project did much to pioneer the development of micro-apartments through the "SmartSpace" brand. Kennedy expects to complete a 160-unit project across from Twitter's headquarters in June 2015. One hundred twenty of the units will be 275-sf studios, with the remainder being micro-suites. All units have been leased to local colleges.

My Micro NY, Kips Bay, Manhattan 

The media outside of New York often portrays micro-apartments as a "trend" or phenomenon sweeping NYC. The truth is, the city is allowing only one, relatively small micro-unit project through it's AdaptNYC competition. Instead of updating its zoning to legalize the clearly-needed product, city officials chose to allow just one "pilot" project to test the viability of the concept -- as if small apartments in New York is a new idea!

The winner of the competition was Monadnock Development, which is currently having the 55 micro-units built in a factory in Brooklyn. This year, we will see the units delivered to Manhattan and assembled on the Kips Bay site. Assuming the "pilot" is successful, will the city legalize micro-apartments where 46% of the inhabitants live alone?

We-Live, Crystal City, Arlington, VA

In 2014, co-working juggernaut WeWork announced plans to partner with commercial real estate behemoth Vornado to redevelop a 12-story office building as WeWork's first venture into the residential market. The project, which was approved in July, will include 252 apartments, many just 360 sf or less. The units would be organized to share large communal spaces with commercial-grade kitchen appliances. I think the layout and the concept is very compelling. I haven't been to Crystal City, but I have heard some skepticism about the vibrancy of the location.

Latham Hotel, Georgetown, Washington DC

In October, Washington DC approved a new 140-unit micro-apartment development that will include the redevelopment of the Latham Hotel along with an addition. The apartments will be, on average, 330 sf apiece, and they’ll come furnished. SB Urban is committed to the micro-apartment concept, and plans to bring two other such projects to market: the 90-unit redevelopment of the Patterson Mansion at DuPont Circle, and a 125-unit development at Blagden Alley.

Also keep an eye on...

The whole scene in Seattle: While NYC makes news by allowing one micro-unit project in the vast metropolis, Seattle has built hundreds of small studios within larger units because of quirks in its zoning. However, just months ago, Seattle City Council passed new rules regulating the development of micro-apartments. Developers had thousands of micro-units in the pipeline, and cried that the regulations would significantly throttle development of new units that provided a much needed option for single renters. It will be interesting to see how the new regulations affect future developments.

Flats #800, Gold Coast, Chicago: Cedar Street Companies recently purchased The Bush Temple of Music, and announced their intention to develop it as micro-apartments as part of its Flats brand. Cedar Street has renovated several Chicago SRO buildings as micro-apartments, which have leased up successfully. It should be a challenging renovation, especially if zoning approvals are needed.

The Wharf, Washington DC: According to the developer, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, about 6% of the residential units in the $2-billion waterfront development are planned to be micro-apartments. This means we should expect about 170 micro-apartments to be completed by 2017.

Turntable Studios, Denver: Nichols Partnership announced they will be converting a hotel near the Denver Bronco's Stadium into micro-apartments. Some 168 of the 179 units will be 330-sf studios, with the remainder to be small one- and two-bedroom apartments.

286 Varick, Downtown Jersey City: When the Big Apple created a stir with its AdaptNYC competition, Rushmon-Dillon Partnership went right across the Hudson River to find a site for micro-apartments, avoiding the stiff competition. In September, a judge approved the project after determining the city had improperly pandered to community opposition. The project is expected to include 87 micro-apartments, all less than 400 sf.

Which projects are you most excited about? Did I miss any important ones?

Adam Hengels is SVP and Director of Development of PAD, a Brooklyn-based real estate development start-up that builds communities for young professionals. PAD’s developments will feature micro-apartments and other product innovations. A gadget geek and passionate pioneer of Market Urbanism, his mission is to elevate and modernize the urban experience. He can be reached via e-mail at

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