By Jimmy Magahern
The residential development boom drives new business for designers, brokers, landscapers and more.
The last time we talked with Mary Cooper, for Scottsdale Airpark News’ March 2017 “Living in the Airpark” issue, she and her husband John had just recently purchased their 4,000-square-foot unit on the 11th floor of the new 12-story Optima Kierland condominium tower. This April, the couple finally moves in.
During the time in between, a largely unseen army of professionals connected to the business of building homes – from designers and landscapers to brokers and mortgage companies – has been busily readying the tower’s residences for occupancy. It’s all part of the business infrastructure that has risen around the Airpark’s residential development, which has only recently begun catching up with its retail and commercial development, a reversal from the typical growth pattern of most urban centers, where retail commonly follows rooftops.
“I’ve been working with my interior designer for furniture and stuff like that,” Cooper says. “But right now, we’re just sort of in a waiting mode. We’re going to try to go over there and take a look at the floor space, if we can get up there and have a look at that. But from what we can see just driving by, it’s looking good!”
In the past couple of years, the Scottsdale Airpark has been buzzing with cranes and construction equipment as a number of high-rise condo and apartment complexes spring up in the few remaining infill areas around the Scottsdale Quarter, Kierland Commons and other high-traffic retail zones. In addition to Optima Kierland, the area now also has The Core Scottsdale, The Plaza Lofts at Kierland Commons, Optima Kierland, Liv North Scottsdale, Crescent Scottsdale Quarter and SOHO Scottsdale, among other residential developments.
For couples like the Coopers, in their late 70s, the appeal of living in a tower within easy walking distance of so many top-flight restaurants and leisure activities beats the amenities offered at your average 55+ community.
“I’m excited to get over there because I know that I can just come down the elevator and walk across the street and I’m over where all the shopping and restaurants are,” Cooper says. “We also like the idea of not having to have a gardener or worry about all the upkeep that comes with having a single family house. With this, you just pay your homeowner dues and everything is taken care of.”
But she’s already becoming a little worried about all the other development going on around them.
“We’re kind of concerned because we don’t want our view to the west to be blocked,” she says. “We don’t want a 20-story building going in next to us, you know?”
Scottsdale real estate agent Arie Luyendyk Jr. has been getting lots of bites lately for a million-dollar condo he has listed at The Plaza Lofts at Kierland Commons. Unfortunately, not everyone contacting him has been a viable buyer.
That’s because the RE/MAX Excalibur agent is also the star of this season’s ABC reality show The Bachelor, which, Luyendyk admits, has been interfering a bit with his real estate gig.
“It’s a little awkward, actually,” he told Jimmy Kimmel during a January episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. “I drove somebody around, and we looked at houses and then I realized, she’s not buying a house. She just wanted to hang out. So I think this might be creating a problem for me.”
Actually, Luyendyk might be the perfect salesman for Airpark-area home sales. The 36-year-old Dutch-born heartthrob is also a champion race car driver who’s competed in the IndyCar Series, A1 Grand Prix and the X Games, following in the path of his dad, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. As such, TV’s most eligible bachelor would seem to make a perfect poster boy for the modern Airpark resident: a jet-setting wheeler-dealer with expensive tastes in hobbies and a yen for the “live-work-play” environment the new condo developments are striving to create.
That’s been the target of many of the tech companies looking to recruiting young talent to the Airpark, a trend which is seen as driving the shift to develop residential spaces in active urban hubs where people can walk or bike to work or play – the so-called “live-work-play” concept. But observers say the average profile of people buying residential units around the Airpark are actually older than the Millennials and Gen-Xers perceived to be propelling the change.
“The Airpark and Kierland areas are probably more along the lines of Boomer market, younger and older Boomers, and those looking for second homes,” says Tom Simplot, president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association, a trade association for the state’s apartment industry, last March. “We know for a fact that a lot of empty nesters rent apartments in that area and they only use them three to six months out of the year.”
That bodes well for all the designers, brokers and mortgage companies riding the Airpark’s residential boom to their own expanding success.
“For this particular condominium, we’re getting a little bit older demographic,” says David Hovey Jr., president of Optima, which is simultaneously building an apartment complex right next to the condo tower to draw in younger renters. “Obviously with the price points that we’re at right now, it’s more affordable to older residents. In the apartment building, I imagine we’ll have a mix of young professionals all the way up to empty nesters as well.”
All of the Airpark condo and apartment projects share at least one thing in common: designs that afford residents a lot of opportunities to get outside and take in the great McDowell Mountain vistas.
“People in Arizona like being outdoors, enjoying the climate, and we’ve been able to do that with big terraces,” Hovey says. “You’re really living in a five-star resort.”