Savvy developers design for both millennials, boomers

COURTESY OF ABSKETCHES Rendering of The Waterfront in Allentown, where versatility is a key to attracting residents from multiple generations. The $350 million project is underway along the Lehigh River.

Lynn Nemeth, a long-time associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors, Coopersburg, was close to selling her single-family home and diving into the social and maintenance-free aspects of a 55-and-over community.

But the baby boomer determined that the cons out-weighed the pros and her house remains off the market.

“Some of the pitfalls of the 55-and-over communities are [from] the benefits offered,” she said.

By restricting age groups, residents are limited as to who may occupy the home. One owner must be 55 or older. If there is a spouse or another resident not close to the 55-year requirement, they will need approval from the homeowners’ association to occupy the home.

If the owner’s circumstances change, for example, if the need arises to provide for grandchildren on a full-time basis, they might have to move out of the community.

Nemeth’s concerns illustrate what could happen when developers build residential communities targeted to one specific demographic. What happens when that demographic, such as millennials, gets older and has families, or dies off, such as baby boomers?

Architects and developers, though, are savvy to that scenario and will build to be adaptable in the future and/or build for multiple demographics. A prime example is building for millennials and aging baby boomers at the same time.

Developers have noticed that many boomers are following the trend set by millennials to drift toward the walk-to-everything, experience vs. possession lifestyle. So they’re creating concepts where retirees and young professionals can live in the same area.


“At least half the people I talk to are ready, willing and able to follow the lead of the millennials,” said Michael J. Kautter, president of Kautter and Kelley Architects, Wyomissing. “This resonates to the 40-to-70 age group, who are saying they would stay here and live in a quality apartment setting.”

Kautter’s firm recently took part in designing a restaurant as part of the redevelopment of an old knitting mill at the former VF Outlet in Wyomissing.

The project, to open in 2019, will have two apartment buildings, restaurants, office and retail space, he said.


Zachary Jaindl of Jaindl Enterprises, Allentown, also has adaptation in mind as his group continues work on its $350 million The Waterfront project along the Lehigh River in Allentown.

“We’re not on the same social track as 30 years ago,” Jaindl said. “All of society is changing. People, for the most part, aren’t looking for a house in the country.

“We’re focused on the bulk perspective of grocery stores, shops and day cares minutes from the house.”


Jaindl said he has about a 50-50 split of younger and older potential residents for his project, which will offer mixed use of apartments, office sites, shops and restaurants.

He said the thought is that as the oldest millennials and Gen-Xers approach their later decades that they may not want to be associated with a 55-and-over community.

“What I preach to all of my design team is versatility,” he said. “We will have movie rooms, yoga and kitchen groups and indoor pools. It allows for a mixed population.”


Kautter agreed that building for long-term versatility will bring long-term benefits for architects, developers and the communities in which projects are breaking ground. Future generations will be able to easily move in as older generations move out.

“The communities who have the most people are going to grow the businesses,” he said.

“So if you’re able to create an area with walkable amenities such as shops, bars and grocery stores, you’re going to attract post-college people.”


Silvia A. Hoffman, president of MKSD architects, South Whitehall Township, agreed about the attraction for the young generation.

“Younger people are not ready for full ownership, so this is an ideal option,” she said.

In terms of the other end of the spectrum, Hoffman said, “The retired generation has a lot of appeal to move to a condo or a townhouse where they don’t have to spend time doing maintenance.”

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