The idea of large buyers of single homes with the financial incentive to support restrictive zoning is very concerning

If you've worried about neighbors squawking about light pollution, traffic and sidewalks ... just wait until Blackstone shows up to local planning commissions
In local zoning, there's actually a practical stalemate ... neither side wants litigation. Towns generally hold upper hand, but it's expensive for both. Developers need certainty and speed. Towns don't carry budgets for litigation. To fund they'd need to raise taxes.
This is actually good because it forces compromise.

Towns get a sense for how far they can push the Developer/Owner. And things stay within bounds as long as requests are reasonable.
A well heeled institution entering the game is a large disruption to this balance.

If Blackstone owns a few hundred homes in a small area, then allocating $500,000 to fight or litigate a higher density zoning is money "well spent" to protect that investment.
It also disrupts the balance between developers. There's generally an unwritten moral code among buildings that you may compete against others ... but you don't advocate against someone else's job. There isn't perfect compliance, but it's generally adhered to.
The possibility of neighbor litigation is the main thing that drives developers to seek letters of "non-opposition" or "support" from local neighbors. Even if you can afford the lawyers bills, very few projects can afford the years that it takes to go through the courts.
Again, imagine Blackstone et al as your neighbor? What are the chances that you can get them to agree to encroach on their easement, install a new water line, or any of the typical things you often need to get a project done? 0%
And even if it's not 0%, it will just have as chilling an effect. How many developers would want to take that risk of the chance of going to war with the private equity firm? Very few.
An ad hoc near neighbors group is powerful because of the implicit threat that 10-12 people can afford to go court. Not because it represents 10-12 voters

That's why Developers negotiate & engage with groups like this even when a project is "by right." You need the certainty

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More from @bobbyfijan

16 Jul
Our new place is a complicated floorplan (but common for Philly). It's 4 1/2 levels with a ~600sf footprint & some split level elements

Lower: Basement
1st: Kitchen/Living
2nd: 2 smaller BRs
3rd: Master suite
Top: Interior loft & access to balcony

Will be a fun problem to solve
The main issue with these rowhomes, is that master suite is as large as the entire Kitchen & Living Room. Walking through this am, I'm toying with the idea of my wife and I taking one of the smaller BRs. Allows the top level to function as a real family room

Bedrooms are too big
My wife is in board to at least try.

Next will be interior decor. I like a design that punches you in the face when you walk in the door. Dramatic colors. Contrast. Walls, ceiling & trim painted the same color. My wife is pretty much the opposite ... We'll see how it goes.
Read 4 tweets
15 Jul
Just got the keys to our new house. Mixture of feelings

Excited to get a home (in the city) next to the park

But, we brought our kids from the hospital here. And it's the first project I worked on. My signature's still on wall of leasing office. Feels like end of a few chapters
I remember staring up at the building when we walked in to negotiate with the owners. Over 10 years ago. It was so cool.

We had 3 signed LOIs (like that made a big deal) with different numbers written on them. Intended to try and feel out the owner and then present the best one
Got the building under contract and then worked like crazy. I borrowed my dad's scanner to scan the old school leases. Had 3 plans for the building and tried everything to bring in a capital partner. Several got close, but no one bit ... had to let the contract expire. Felt over.
Read 10 tweets
15 Jul
If we convert office buildings to residential, we will need more creative floorplans. Office buildings have larger floor plates, meaning that apartments will have large length:width ratio

Example of the best you can reasonably expect in a conversion:
620sf, 35' deep x 17'6" wide
This unit was from office/industrial conversion. Here's how it looks in real life. The 17'6" width of the unit means that you're basically forced to create a "shared light" 1BR

If you have height, this can be mitigated with windows over the Bedroom/Living Room wall. Good result.
But because you are working within the existing limitations of a building, there are some awkward plans.

Here's a floorplan from project I did. 1350sf. 1 real bedroom, with 2 "dens" or flex rooms. Not ideal. However, this has been very popular unit for families in the city.
Read 4 tweets
13 Jul
Here's a really tough floorplan in Texas. Every feature is too big and poorly located. Results in a tiny Living Room with shared light bedroom.

Listed as 675sf 1BR, this unit is 31' deep. So it should be a good layout.

But the crazy thing about Dallas, still rents for >$1800/mo Image
Here's another floorplan in the same building. This unit is also 31' deep, but it's 40 inches wider. This gives just enough space to slide the bedroom to the exterior wall. Creates a great 725sf 1BR apartment. Image
It again shows that you can't just look at a rent roll in excel and look for price inefficiencies. You have to look at the floorplans. In Excel, these units are IDENTICAL, other than one of them is 50sf (7%) larger. But the second unit is much more than 7% better on attributes.
Read 5 tweets
11 Jul
Here's a condo project in NYC with tough floorplans. This is caused by designing to maximize BR count, without reducing BR dimensions or attributes.

In this 3BR 3.5BA 2500sf unit, the 3rd BR results in excess hallways & compromised Living Room.

(Thread below on how I'd fix ⬇️)
CAVEAT: I've never done condo, or worked in NYC. And it's easy to crap on other ppl's plans. Some of mine are terrible.

So consider this an explanation of how Bedroom design principles effect other Room ... and how this unit would work better as an apartment in general.
Most tenants use 3rd BR as office or guest BR. This floorplan shows it w/ daybed. But the 3rd BR dimensions and attributes are of a true bedroom.

There are better ways add office/flex BR. So here's how I'd fix it, without touching the Living Room or Kitchen.
Read 11 tweets
9 Jul
In evaluating projects, it would be better if communities focused on unit floorplans, rather than exterior architecture, or elevations with facade material call outs.

Here's an example of a typical submission from one of my projects (I think it looks nice!): ImageImage
The discussion & objections end up falling on related points. Shadow lines, "neighborhood character" native vegetation etc

As a result, renderings have improved & pre-approved facade materials have gotten more specific - but projects haven't gotten better
Now specific floorplans aren't quite designed at the approval stage. But Developers have absolutely generated a proforma & detailed unit mix %, or they wouldn't be spending $$ on pre-development.

Here are the floorplans from the project at the top. Not much can change. Image
Read 7 tweets

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