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updated: 9/16/2020 8:35 PM

Suburban construction doesn’t lag despite coronavirus

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  • Steve Spinell

    Steve Spinell

 

If you've noticed cranes and construction sites aplenty this year despite coronavirus, your eyes have not deceived you. The building boom of the past few years does indeed continue to march on. But certain types of suburban properties are faring better than others, and the virus has left its mark on our industry in many ways.

Going by our pipeline, multifamily projects may be particularly resilient in the suburbs. Unlike other segments of the commercial real estate market that have taken a hit during the pandemic, such as retail, restaurant and hospitality, apartment demand hasn't abated. Residential construction in particular is growing more quickly in lower-density markets, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Home Building Geography Index. Several of our projects currently under construction, including 10 North Main in Mount Prospect, Ill., and Avere on Duane, a transit-oriented development in Glen Ellyn, Ill., reflect this trend. Both developments are designed to meet the demand from renters for luxury apartments in suburban downtowns by offering condo-quality finishes, the latest mechanical and engineering systems, open floor plans and a walkable maintenance-free lifestyle with proximity to shops and restaurants without the hassles of homeownership and high traffic congestion.

Senior housing also continues to have strong long-term prospects for the suburbs. When looking beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis, record numbers of people will be seeking senior housing in the coming years due to aging baby boomers. In fact, almost 881,000 new units will be needed in the U.S. between now and 2030, according to recent projections from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). We're doing our part to meet that demand with Amazing Grace, a senior living renovation project in Park Ridge that upon completion will have both assisted living and memory care units.

And it's not just renters that are keeping construction humming. Due to the pandemic, the suburbs seem to be having a reawakening among buyers who are in search of more space -- specifically homes that have a dedicated office -- as families continue with remote learning and working from home. Mortgage applications are surging for suburban homes, like those found at Roslyn Meadows, a townhouse project we recently completed in Barrington, according to MarketWatch.

It also appears that projects around 200 units are able to better handle market fluctuations. A huge master-planned community may be struggling to secure financing or local government approval due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the ones we see moving forward are manageable in size so they aren't a burden in terms of municipal traffic or resources, plus they have strong community support, whether they are filling a housing demand or improving a neglected or under-used lot.

All municipalities, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have provided guidelines for construction crews to follow to help mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus, including handwashing stations, temperature checks and social distancing. Because of this, large projects and construction sites have had to stagger schedules, coordinate elevator rides and take other steps to accommodate their much-larger crews. These new safety protocols may or may not influence a project's construction schedule. However, none of our projects have experienced delays. And while the pandemic gave the construction industry pause, it also showcased our resiliency and brought out the best in our teams.

• Steve Spinell is principal of Kinzie Builders in Vernon Hills. For more information, visit www.kinziebuilders.com