W. Jeff Booth had been scouting Denver for an urban, infill development site for the past 17 years. But Booth, the executive vice president of development for San Antonio based Embrey, could never find just the right site.

Embrey will start construction on the apartment community in Lowry in about a year.

That is, until he came across the 5.1-acre site on Lowry Boulevard and Quebec Street in the 70-acre Boulevard One, the final neighborhood in Lowry. Embrey beat out 13 other competitors to develop a 350-unit, LEED Gold certified apartment community on the site.

“I am very honored that they chose us, Booth said. “Given what a great location that is and how Lowry is nationally known, Itruly think that they could have chosen any company in the country,11 Booth said. “I really think they had their pick. No one would turn this down, Booth said.”

Hilaria Portell, who was part of the selection committee at the Lowry Redevelopment Authority, said that Embrey was chosen for a variety of reasons. “We felt they were really aligned with our vision for Boulevard One,” Portell said. She said the LRA also was impressed by Embrey’s team, its conceptual architectural that meets the LRA’s guidelines, its financial capability and its experience and reputation.

In the Denver area, its communities include the AMLI at Inverness, Arvada Station and the Escape at Ken Caryl.

Embrey also has won national awards for its Can Plant Residences and Artessa at Quarry Village in San Antonio. Booth said Embrey will be raising the bar with Boulevard One at Lowry. “I think this will be an award winner, like Can Plant,” Booth said. “We were impressed how they played a role in unique, urban infill projects like the Can Plant in San Antonio,” Portell said.

“The developer we chose had to know how to add that special twist for a project in an urban, mixed-use area and to really know how to integrate it with the surrounding neighborhood of single-family homes and some townhomes.”Construction likely will begin in about a year on Boulevard One at Lowry.”They will spend much of 2016 in the planning stages,” Portell said. The average unit size at Boulevard One at Lowry will be about 940 square feet. Monthly rents are expected to run from about $1,650 to $3,300.

It was crucial to the LRA that the developer it chose would build an apartment community that reflects the historic building at Lowry such as former officer housing quarters that were turned into housing after Lowry was decommissioned as an Air Force base and the Steam Plant building, but without trying to duplicate them. “They have to blend the old, with the kind of design material, for example, but reinterpret them in a modern way,” she said. “It’s all about placemaking,” Portell said.

While the design of new buildings, especially apartments, has received a lot of highly publicized criticism recently, Booth said great design is part of Embrey’s DNA.

“Design is really ingrained in the fabric of our corporate culture,” Booth said.

Indeed, at a recent multifamily conference sponsored by the Colorado Real Estate Journal and others, Booth said that design is only second to the site selection when Embrey develops an apartment community.”If you came to our San Antonio office, you would see ‘Designing the Experience’ on our walls and our offices,” Booth said. “We take design and architecture very seriously. We’ll have internal competitions, for example, on how to design a better break room,” he said. Although the family owned Embrey constructs and manages all of its own properties, it hires outside architects.”One reason is that keeps our designs fresh and it can be built to fit in with the local environment,” he said.

In other words, the communities will not have a cookie-cutter design.

He noted that when he was in Denver for the recent CREJ conference, he drove past the AMLI Inverness.”Ten years later, AMLI Inverness looks as fresh and as inviting as it did when we built it,” Booth said.”I think it has aged extremely well,” Booth said. “It has sort of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-style feel to it, but with a techy edge that fits in well with the Inverness Business Park,” Booth said.

“It was really the first new apartment project in Inverness, and we didn’t want people to look back and say, ‘That was something that was built in 2005.’ We don’t want people to look at our communities and say that is a 2015-era building, because it looks like everything else being built at that time.”

by John Rebchook

Colorado Real Estate Journal