DC developers lead for live-work-play apartment communities

Location has always been among deciding factors for where apartment renters choose to rent, but it has shifted from wanting to be close to work to wanting to be close to everything else. Or having it right where they call home.

Developers in the D.C. region are among leaders in meeting that demand.

Live-work-play apartment communities, rich with on-site amenities, dedicated work spaces, even in small apartments, and in walkable communities are gaining traction, with the number of new developments that fit the description quadrupling in the last 10 years nationwide.

The D.C. metro has been the No. 1 hotspot for mixed-use development in the last decade per capita, according to rental data research firm Yardi Matrix, with 17,300 such units completed since 2012.

The D.C. region also ranks No. 3 overall for total number of live-work-play (LWP) communities, behind Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.

More than a third of apartments delivered in the D.C. area in the last decade have been mixed use, with construction peaking in 2021.

Yardi Matrix reports 97% of these apartments have access to fitness centers, 75% to swimming pools, and 8% to spa centers.

These LWP buildings tend to have more expensive monthly rental rates, sometimes much more, and many renters in the D.C. region who might like the idea are priced out of affording them. But not all.

“When you look the demographic of the people in the D.C. area, obviously millennials, higher median incomes, and they want a wealth of hot spots and a mixed-used type of thing,” said Doug Ressler, senior analyst at Yardi Matrix.

About the only thing missing from live-work-play is “eat.” Developers don’t overlook that either.

“What we found are better returns for those assets that have either retail or restaurants or that type of hoteling function within a building,” Ressler said.

There are more of these communities in the pipeline, with an estimated 11,600 live-work-play apartments set to hit the D.C. market in the near future.

The District ranks high for those types of new communities, though according to Yardi Matrix, Arlington leads, with 34% of new residential rental construction between 2012 and 2021 fitting the definition.

Yardi Matrix has its report on metro live-work-play development online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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