The story below is from our September/October 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
Homeownership has long been a key pillar of the American dream. The charming house with a white picket fence and a yard large enough for the two-and-a-half kids to run around with the family dog. Truly a lovely picture, but one that is as far away from many Americans’ minds as Neptune.
Over the last two decades, there has been a significant decrease in homeownership rates and a steady increase in demand for rental housing. According to “The State of the Nation’s Housing 2015” report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than 35 percent of households rented their homes in 2014, a 20-year high. In Virginia, that rate is 34 percent, the highest in 10 years.
One explanation is that millennials (those born between 1985 and 2004) prefer to rent instead of buy, especially as student debt rises. But on the other end of the spectrum, baby boomers have also contributed to the new “normal,” accounting for 42 percent of the growth in renter households.
To meet this new demand, real estate developers are moving quickly and producing hundreds of new multifamily communities each year across the country, including 15 multifamily structures in Roanoke since 2010.
A recent report published by the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center describes several methods of acknowledging the demand for multifamily rental housing, examples of which can be found right here in the Star City.
Preserve What’s Already There
Constructed in 1910, the art deco building at 110 Campbell Avenue was once the home to a Montgomery Ward department store. More than 100 years later, the building has been given new life as the Aurora, a new apartment building geared toward artists and creatives.
“It seems the building was primarily office space since 1980 and mostly vacant since 2000 except for some brief periods where the space was used as art studios for local artists,” says Beth Deel, special projects consultant and designer for the Aurora.
Converting the former department store and abandoned office spaces into art studios and residential units was a natural use of the building, which features a dramatic light-filled atrium, 28 apartments and 10 studios.