Want to bring the renters to your apartment buildings? Consider these amenities

What amenities are renters looking for in new apartment buildings? What features should owners and developers add to make sure that renters choose their properties?

The National Apartment Association provides some hints in its latest report, Adding Value in the Age of Amenities Wars.

The report lists the top amenities in apartment buildings across the nation, with a focus on 11 key cities, Chicago the only one in the Midwest. In keeping with the trends of modern apartment development, researchers found that the most important amenities are community ones, with half of the top amenities added or upgraded since 2014 involving bringing residents together.

Everything from clubhouses to outdoor kitchens and swimming pools remain key amenities for apartment developers hoping to attract a steady stream of renters.

According to the report, fitness centers have become the most popular community-wide amenity in apartment buildings. That is followed by business centers, clubhouses, common areas for socializing and pet-friendly apartment buildings.

The next most popular community amenities are improved landscaping in common areas, swimming pools, outdoor kitchens, playgrounds or play areas and areas for holding packages delivered to residents.

Renters are willing to pay a bit more each month for certain community amenities. The National Apartment Association found that 46 percent of apartment residents today are willing to a pay rent premium for access to on-site fitness classes, while 42 percent are willing to pay more for walking trails and tracks.

Inside units, the most sought-after amenity since 2014 is an in-unit washer/dryer, following by high-end kitchen appliances, hardwood floors and upgrades to units’ lighting, plumbing and electrical systems. Renters also sought energy-efficient appliances, high-end kitchen countertops, ceiling fans, cable TV, garbage disposals and personal outdoor space.

The National Apartment Association found that 49 percent of renters are willing to pay $75 more a month in rent for hardwood floors, while 41 percent are willing to pay $50 more each month for balconies. The association also reported that 39 percent of renters are willing to spend $30 a month more for granite countertops.

But can multifamily owners charge higher monthly rents for added amenities? According to the apartment association, yes. The association found that community-wide amenities brought in higher average rent increases, $77 more per unit each month. Unit-specific upgrades brought higher rents, too, but a smaller average of $52 a month.

The association reported that pet-friendly amenities had the greatest impact on rents and only cost owners an average $7,000. That makes pet-friendy amenities the biggest bang for building owners’ bucks.

Fitness centers are an important amenity, too. The apartment association said that building owners could receive an average of 13 percent more in monthly rent by adding fitness centers to their buildings. The average cost of adding a fitness center, though, is not cheap, $28,500 according to the National Apartment Association.

Adding a clubhouse will cost owners an average of $50,000, but will result in an average monthly rental boost of 9 percent for a building. A new swimming pool, which costs an average of $25,000, will bring an average monthly increase of rental income of 11 percent, according to the association.

Source: MN News

Edamame burger? Kale and quinoa soup? The healthy fast-food trend is hitting the Midwest

Crazy Bowls & Wraps


For Keith Kitsis, the decision was a simple one: People often need to eat fast. But eating fast shouldn’t have to mean eating unhealthy, too.

That’s why 23 years ago, Kitsis founded Crazy Bowls & Wraps in St. Louis, a fast-food restaurant offering everything from kale — long before it was cool — to quinoa with its wraps, salads and bowls.

Today, Crazy Bowls & Wraps has 15 locations in the Missouri, Ohio and Illinois, with the majority of these restaurants in the St. Louis market. The chain was a bit of a pioneer more than two decades ago. But today, Crazy Bowls & Wraps has some company: Healthier fast-food restaurants are opening across the country, including in the Midwest.

Kitsis said that this isn’t just a fad, either.

“This whole movement of healthier fast food has evolved over the years,” Kitsis said. “You have Chipotle talking about its better ingredients. You have the explosion in gourmet grocers like Whole Foods. This is not just a trend. People really want to eat this way. They want to know where their food is coming from. Healthy doesn’t mean low-calorie. it means knowing where your ingredients are sourced and the quality of those ingredients.”

Nic’s Organic Fast Food


A growing movement

Restaurants are one subset of retail that is doing well today. And fast-casual restaurants are doing especially well, while big, traditional fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are seeing sluggish, if any, growth.

The growth of healthier fast-food restaurants is an example of this.

Trends expert Daniel Levine, director of New York City-based trends consultancy The Avant-Guide Institute, said that healthier fast-food choices is in no way a fad. Instead, it is a long-term trend, one that will only grow in the coming years.

“We draw a line between trend and fad,” Levine said. “The biggest difference is longevity. Fads are quick flashes. Trends last longer. This movement is definitely a trend.”

For proof, Levine points to the new struggles faced by high-end grocers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. These stores used to face little competition from traditional supermarkets. Today, though, even standard supermarkets such as Jewel-Osco and Safeway are stocking much of the same healthier fare in which organic and gourmet grocers specialize.

To Levine, this is evidence of a long-term trend in the country.

Then there’s LYFE Kitchen, a fast-food chain with Midwest locations in the Chicago and Memphis markets. This chain, which offers such healthier fare as hummus, un-fried chicken strips, flatbread pizzas, salads and soups, was started by Mike Roberts and Mike Donahue, two former high-ranking executives with McDonald’s.

“What is so fascinating to me, from a trends perspective, is that guys from McDonald’s, who knows what the eating zeitgeist is in America, thinks that this kind of healthier fast-food restaurant is the next big thing. Just looking at the direction toward healthy eating that these guys took, shows me that this movement is 100 percent a trend and not just a fad.”

A menu item at LYFE Kitchen

Organic fast food in Chicago 

A good example of this trend is Nic’s Organic Fast Food, which opened its first location earlier this year in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows.

As the name suggests, Nic’s serves traditional fast food — everything from hamburgers and fries to breakfast sandwiches — that is certified organic. The food isn’t low-calorie, but the restaurant’s founders — husband-and-wife team Benjamin and Nicolette Brittsan — say that it is healthier.

The Brittsans are parents, and say they struggled to find organic fast-food options in the Chicago area for their two children.

Their organic restaurant fills that void, the Brittsans say.

Tom & Eddie’s is another good example. This chain, with locations in the Chicago suburbs of Vernon Hills, Lombard and Naperville, also serves what looks like traditional fast-food mainstays such as hamburgers, chicken strips and chicken sandwiches. But this small chain also makes its food from scratch with all-natural ingredients.

The restaurants also offer healthier choices, such as the Yin & Yang burger, a burger made from ground edamame beans, and the Islander, a sandwich made from sushi-grade tuna. Tom & Eddie’s also offers a ground-turkey burger with crumbled Feta cheese.

Tom & Eddie’s, too, was born out of McDonald’s. The chain was founded by Ed Rensi, president and chief executive officer of McDonald’s USA, and Tom Dentice, executive vice president of McDonald’s Corp. in charge of operations and franchising.

Buona fast-food restaurants, with 19 locations in Chicago, are known for their Italian beef sandwiches. That doesn’t sound particularly healthy.

But the chain doest serve food made from scratch. It uses all-natural ingredients. And it also offers its Skip-the-Gym menu, which it launched in 2015. Items on this menu come in at under 500 calories.

Customers can choose a 5-inch skinny Italian beef sandwich — which comes on multigrain bread — and enjoy a sandwich that comes with just 266 calories. The chain’s signature pepper-and-egg sandwich — a Chicago tradition — will cost diners just 408 calories.

What’s interesting about such restaurants is that they aren’t necessarily serving low-calorie food. Eating at a Tom & Eddie’s or Nic’s Organic Fast Food won’t help your waistline.

Instead, these restaurants are focusing on organics, food that doesn’t include artificial ingredients and locally-sourced items.

Jessica Levings, registered dietitian, real estate developer and owner of the Balanced Pantry, a company that helps food clients create the Nutrition Facts labels on their food, says that she isn’t surprised at this trend. Consumers have simply gotten savvier when it comes to their food, she said.

“Healthy, real food is the number-one thing consumers want to see more of on restaurant menus,” Levings said. “Consumers’ perception of healthy food has evolved, and now includes not just calories and nutrients, but also food free from artificial ingredients and traceable to the source.”

Levine says that the bigger, well-established fast-food chains have taken notice of this. An example? Earlier this year, McDonald’s announced that it will make its Quarter Pounder sandwiches out of fresh, not frozen, beef.

Levine says that those fast-food chains that don’t adapt their menus to include at least some healthier or organic items will struggle to maintain a steady stream of customers.

“Those that don’t recognize this trend? They will die,” Levine said.

Source: MN News

Colliers acquires Minneapolis’ WelshCo

Jean Kane

Global commercial real estate services firm Colliers International Group Inc. has acquired Minneapolis’ WelshCo LLC and its brokerage, property management, facilities and architecture divisions.

Welsh has been an affiliate office of Colliers International since 2010. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 1977, Welsh employs more than 225 professionals
“This addition is the latest in a series of targeted strategic acquisitions across the United States, specifically in the important Midwest region,” said Steve Everbach, Colliers International President | Central Region, in a written statement. “Adding our high-performing Minnesota affiliate as a fully integrated part of our global platform will further strengthen our company nationally and help leverage their managerial talents in other regions.”

“This partnership with Colliers is the next evolution of our business given our shared culture and focus on service excellence,” said Jean Kane, chief executive officer of Welsh, in a written statement.

Source: MN News

Kraus-Anderson building new elementary school in Minnesota

The Bemidji office of Kraus-Anderson is building the Gene Dillon Elementary School in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Ground-breaking ceremonies were held March 27 at the site, 3795 Division St. in Bemidji.

The 120,000-square-foot school will serve 600 students in grades 4 and 5.

Designed by DLR Group, the new school will feature two gymnasiums, 48 high-tech classrooms, cafeteria, lounge, media center, art and music facilities, offices and an autism area.

Voters approved a $39 million bonding referendum in 2014, $30 million of which would fund Gene Dillon Elementary and the remainder would renovate the existing Bemidji Middle School.

Construction is expected to be completed in time for the new 2018-19 school year.

Source: MN News

The SBA Guy joins St. Paul’s Anchor Bank

John Thwing

John Thwing, known as the SBA Guy, has joined St. Paul, Minnesota-based Anchor Bank.

Thwing comes to Anchor with nearly 30 years of experience in banking. He has a wide range of expertise, including owner-occupied commercial real estate, business acquisitions, expansions, partner buyouts, franchise and construction financing.

Thwing, who joined Anchor in February, gave himself the nickname The SBA Guy, and the name stuck.

“I really am The SBA Guy. It’s my job, my title and my license plate. It is how I make the world a better place, by helping people transform their lives through ownership,” Thwing said, in a statement.

Thwing graduated from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. He started his banking career as a mail boy at Northwestern National Bank (later renamed Wells Fargo) and worked his way up.

Source: MN News

The Boulder Group brings more good news for net-lease market

Walgreens remains a strong performer in the net-lease market.

The single-tenant net-lease sector remained a busy one in 2017, according to the latest research from the Boulder Group. And in even better news, Boulder Group researchers predicted that this commercial sector will remain busy throughout the year.

The Boulder Group reported that a significant number of net-lease properties entered the market in the first quarter, with the supply of these properties increasing by about 20 percent when compared to the fourth quarter of 2016.

Most of this increase came from the retail sector, with the number of these properties jumping by 24 percent in the first quarter of this year when compared to the last of 2016.

According to the company’s report, there were 3,788 single-tenent net-lease retail properties on hte market in the first quarter of 2017. In the fourth quarter of last year, there were 3,045 of these properties on the market.

The office portion of the net-lease sector saw an increase of 2.8 percent in the first quarter. The Boulder Group said that there were 384 net-lease properties on the market in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared with 395 during the first quarter of this year.

In industrial, the number of net-lease properties on the market actually slipped slightly in the first quarter. According to the Boulder Group’s research, the number of net-lease industrial properties stood at 363 in the fourh quarter of 2016 and 359 in the first quarter of this year.

For all of 2016, the net-lease market had a total transaction volume of about $54 billion, according to research from CoStar. That’s down 7 percent from 2015, which saw more than $58 billlion in net-lease sales. But that 2016 figure is still strong one. The Boulder Group attributes the slight tick downward to uncertainty about interest rates and the 2016 presidential election.

What does the rest of 2017 hold for the net-lease market? In its report, The Boulder Group predicts that this market will remain busy throughout 2017 as investor demand, especially from private investors, continues to rise.

Source: MN News

Walker & Dunlop named a best workplace in financial services industry

Walker & Dunlop has been named one of the best workplaces in the financial services and insurance industries by Great Place to Work and Fortune magazine.

“Being recognized as a best workplace stands out as one of the highest honors that we can receive as a company,” said Howard Smith, president of Walker & Dunlop, in a statement.

Best workplaces were chosen based on surveys from more than 62,000 people working at financial firms.

Source: MN News

Stantec hires former Minneapolis deputy public works director

Heidi Hamilton

Former City of Minneapolis deputy public works director Heidi Hamilton has joined the St. Paul, Minnesota, leadership team for global design firm Stantec.

A long-time municipal engineering leader, Hamilton will be the team leader overseeing a team of planning, landscape architecture and specialty engineering professionals. As senior project manager, she will work within the municipal engineering group and manage projects for new and existing Stantec clients.

Hamilton has more than 20 years of municipal engineering experience, including nine as deputy director of public works for the City of Minneapolis.

Source: MN News