Handling All Development Roles Pays Off In Era Of Specialists
In an age of increasing development costs and growing paucity of available land, much rides on every real estate project. That's why most large multifamily endeavors involve collaborations of specialists intently focused on their respective areas of expertise. This team includes architect, developer and general contractor, who ultimately turn over the reins of completed properties to a property manager or sales broker.
Scour the nation's multifamily industry, and you're unlikely to find many firms bucking this trend. One that unabashedly does is Glencoe, Ill.-based Optima, Inc. Founded by acclaimed architect David Hovey, Optima Inc. has handled all these roles for each Chicago-area and Arizona project it has undertaken since launching in 1978.
Most recently, Optima's projects have included Chicago's Optima Signature, a 490-unit LEED Certified luxury rental high-rise with 58,000 square feet of retail and professional space in the Streeterville enclave on the northern edge of downtown.
Another, Optima Chicago Center, is a sleek 42-story, 325-unit luxury rental building with 20,000 square feet of retail, also in Streeterville, that opened six years ago.
Optima Kierland Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. is a development incorporating two phases. The first, featuring 160 rental units and 231 condominiums, has welcomed residents. The second, offering 213 rental apartments and 202 condominiums, is slated for completion in 2020. The development's sustainable design won the recognition of the International Green Construction Code, which establishes requirements intended to increase the positive impacts and reduce the negative effects of the built environment.
Optima's earlier work includes Optima Old Orchard Woods in Skokie, Ill. and Optima Horizons, Optima Towers and Optima Views in Evanston, Ill. The firm's previous developments in Arizona include Optima Sonoran Village and Optimal Camelview Village in Scottsdale, and Optima Biltmore Towers in Phoenix.
All together, over its 41-year history the company has designed, developed and constructed 5,300 luxury rental and for-sale residences across 31 projects. Its ability to monitor and ensure quality by overseeing every development phase has helped Optima capture a number of national awards celebrating thoughtful development.
But that's not all it has enabled.Not buildings, communities
In all its projects, Optima, Inc. stresses creation of community, not just a collection of buildings. They provide residents places to live, retail space in which to shop, and - in some Optima developments - fully-furnished office suites in which to work. Add in public art and well-conceived landscaping, and the developments strive not to simply serve residents and retail tenants, but the surrounding city. Some have said Optima's ability to do it all enables the firm to create communities that essentially have it all.
As equal parts designer, developer, builder and owner, the firm can create appealing common spaces that spur community engagement.
Tara Hovey, company president and COO, and also CEO David's daughter, notes today's tech-connected world can erect barriers blocking connections all humans seek.
"To help overcome this, we design and program communities and create living experiences that foster our residents' innate desire to connect with each other," she says. "Amenity spaces not only need to appeal to a diverse set of residents' interests, but must . . . encourage people to unplug and choose to spend their free time using and enjoying those spaces and connecting with others in a face-to-face environment."
It's been observed one of the problems of car-based post-war suburban developments was this: So few people walked, the only way to meet someone new was to experience an auto accident. The opposite is true in Optima's developments. Not only are they situated in walkable areas where shops and eateries are steps away, they are also specifically designed to ensure common-area amenities overlap, sparking the kind of serendipitous introductions that have been known to spawn lifelong friendships.
"Intentionally overlapping open spaces allows people to gather and 'bump' into other residents," Hovey says, adding it's all in an effort to "facilitate impromptu connections."