Apartment living appears to be on the rise. Several projects in the works in and around Naperville suggest developers think so, at least.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a proposal for mixed-use redevelopment of several parcels on North Washington Street just north of Sixth Street. If approved, the undertaking will create a building with offices on the street level and three stories of apartments above it.
On the city’s south end, Lennar Multifamily Investors is building nearly 300 apartments that will anchor a rental community comprised of 13 buildings and a clubhouse near the bustling Route 59-95th Street crossroads. Elsewhere in Naperville, projects near the Route 59 Metra commuter station and along Interstate 88 are expected to build significantly the inventory of rented housing in the city in the next couple of years.
And in downtown Lisle, a village-owned piece of property is poised for redevelopment into apartments.
“Rentals right now, they’re really hot, especially in Naperville,” said Sunita Tandon, an agent with Baird & Warner, who sees the strongest interest in downtown units coming from commuters and singles. “If they’re well kept, they’re really going fast.”
Rental activity has increased by about 15 percent over the past year, Tandon said, with one-bedroom apartments going for $1,200 to $1,300 monthly, unless they’re situated close to either of the Metra stations. Those rent for a bit more, she said.
Naperville attorney Russ Whitaker, who represents several developers, said there is competition going on right now for the opportunity to put up new apartments near another local commuter station.
“There’s property in downtown Lisle right now that the city owns and they’re looking to redevelop,” Whitaker said.
Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce spokesman Patrick Skarr isn’t surprised.
“While the housing market has stabilized and has recovered and while the recovery is slowly marching on… I think we’ll see more proposals like that,” said Skarr, who also reported the strongest interest in neighborhoods near transportation hubs coming from young professionals. “I think it’s probably part of a broader trend, based on a couple of conversations I’ve had.”
The trend is somewhat recent. A sharply depressed housing market was given much of the blame when Moser Enterprises turned to the city in early 2007, seeking approval to turn the Naper Place Apartments into dormitory housing for North Central College students. Originally planned for seniors, the development’s 49 rental units were just 20 percent occupied at that point, scarcely 18 months after the apartments were dedicated as part of a mixed-use project on Main Street between Jefferson and Van Buren avenues.
Now the downtown units, available to North Central upperclassmen, go quickly. Students pay $7,764 to live in the apartments for the school year; a meal plan adds about $317 to the cost per month.
“Naper Place is a popular residential option for upperclass North Central College students, due in part to the proximity to downtown Naperville amenities,” spokesman Ted Slowik said in an email.
Working adults and retirees also find in-town living an appealing prospect, but assorted other factors are considered contributors to the uptick in apartment rentals as well. Whitaker said the condominium market has softened considerably as interest in rental housing has picked up.
“Oftentimes it’s more of a shorter time span and people don’t want to get into (a mortgage) commitment,” he said.
Tandon said lenders continue to be more cautious about granting mortgages, and many people are struggling with unemployment or, for those still working, lower incomes than they had in the past.
“They’re scared of getting into a commitment they’re not doing to be able to pay,” she said.
The proposal before the city’s planning panel would put a new building with 34 apartments on the north end of downtown Naperville, two blocks from the train station. The commission recently continued to Nov. 6 the public hearing that last month drew assorted criticisms from some commission members and neighbors of the site. Among the issues raised by adjacent property owners is the expectation that the relatively small apartments, along with the proposed roof patio on the rear on the building, would be a magnet for young tenants inclined to party late at night.