Don’t blame the internet (or COVID-19) for killing malls 

Drew Romanic
Drew Romanic
Principal & Partner



It’s been a tough year for retail. Actually, it’s been a tough couple of decades, especially for big indoor malls. E-tail is often cited as the reason for their decline, but the problem is much older. One reason is that for the last 50 years, malls were built too closely together. This has hastened their decline, with some malls changing hands for pennies on the dollar.


Owners who are able to adapt may find they are sitting on goldmines: acres of mostly unused parking lot close to established neighborhoods, mass transit and interstate highways prime for redevelopment.

Singles, young couples, and empty nesters often want to live in walkable communities, close to shops, restaurants and entertainment, but such neighborhoods are in high demand and short supply. To meet the need, residential development can take the place of dying anchor stores, creating a captive audience for new stores and services.

Hunt Valley Mall

Take, for example, Hunt Valley Mall north of Baltimore, Maryland. Twenty years ago, it was on life support—a bland, nearly empty shell of its former self. That’s when the owner, Greenberg Gibbons Commercial, came to Martin Architectural Group looking for a new concept.

In collaboration with GGC, Martin began redevelopment by taking down the claustrophobic indoor mall and creating an outdoor main street shopping area with a Wegmans Food Market, a cinema and restaurants.

Over the last two decades, as GGC and Martin saw opportunities in the marketplace, they pivoted, adding office space, more restaurants, market-rate apartments, senior living and a hotel. The once desolate mall is now a vibrant 24/7 community that supports the shops, which in turn provide the walkable lifestyle that residents desire.

Hunt Valley is successful because it was designed to be a fun destination. The original master plan included community gathering places around a fountain and fireplace, a bandstand, restaurants and a theater. For Martin, every project is unique, with the type of structures, residences and amenities determined by climate, demographics, site characteristics, land assignments, REAs and lease covenants.

It’s important to note that mall redevelopment is not for the faint of heart. A team of experts, including an architect/land planner, land use attorney, civil and traffic engineers, all with experience in mall redevelopment, is a must.

Just as important if not thee most important consideration of redevelopment is buy-in. If you cannot get that buy in from open discussion with the community and municipal authority you will be in purgatory. Without the cooperation of the local planning and zoning board as well as town council, it is a non-starter. For example, The Promenade at Granite Run (formerly Granite Run Mall), spent several years in discussions with the municipal and community leaders, in order to gain approval to re-vision the property to a horizontal mixed-use project, with two phases of rental apartments planned. Phase two was conditioned on percentage of occupancy of phase one, based on concerns from the municipality of the apartments’ delivery to the market. Michael Markman, President of BET Investments gives the following advice: “Working on zoning ordinances for a dead mall can be a long and arduous process. While most municipalities want to see their properties redeveloped, they often have concerns related to new uses that previously did not exist on the property. We found that maximizing the list of potential uses in the ordinance can help with creating a new and successful mixed-use environment. It is probably a good idea to look at the better mall redevelopments around the country and including every potential use that has been considered in the past. Keep in mind that there may be pushback with non-customer related uses such as warehouses, but the key is making your new ordinance as broad as possible when the mall is dead as there may not be as much flexibility if you are successful in your redevelopment.”

The devil is in the details – many items require discussion and reassessment, from signage to accessible routes through and around the property. Currently we are seeing those routes to include connecting pedestrian pathways, as well as connecting to the surrounding neighborhoods. These are all good things that take time, energy and a dedicated team.

Most importantly, you need deep pockets, a strong stomach and a lot of patience. You will have to work with local government, tenants and neighbors, some of whom won’t like you. Zoning will have to be changed, and tenants may have to be relocated.

It’s a lot to consider, but when faced with losing the mall or revisioning it as a vibrant part of the community, the choice is clear.

 ARCHITECTS AND LAND PLANNERS 

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at Granite Run

The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transit-oriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development. Image of the new CHOP center at the revisioned Promenade at Granite Run

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS 

www.MartinAIA.com • 215.665.1080 • 240 N. 22nd Street, Philadelphia

Saving High Design by Digging a Deeper Hole

Architects are often thought of as ivory tower thinkers, designing glass skyscrapers and high end neo-traditional communities. But saving money? Not often.

“Anyone can come up with high design. Getting it built for the right price. That’s a trick,” says Dan McCauley, partner and principal at The Martin Architectural Group.

Working with design architect David M. Schwarz, Martin came on as architect of record, responsible for documentation and completion of the high-end, mixed-use Chevy Chase Lake project in suburban Washington, DC.  The project consists of 530 residential units in three buildings above retail and subterranean parking.

“It’s nice to work on a project from design to completion, but this one presented us with a unique challenge: to bring the project to fruition on budget without changing the original design,” says Martin’s project manager Scott Hartner.

The Martin team was brought on board after years of initial designs and planning with the developer, its partner, and the municipality.  As designs progressed, the project was $20 million over its $120 million budget. No one wanted to change the original concept, least of all the owners and developer The Bozzuto Group. 

Chevy Chase Lake photo courtesy of Bozzuto Construction Company

“Projects of this scale and complexity will always face challenges,” says Steve Knight, principal of David M. Schwarz Architects. “Design and construction for Chevy Chase Lake have taken place during a period of notable cost escalation, so creative cost control was an important part of the process throughout.”

Martin’s team met with Knight, the contractors, the landscape architect, civil engineers, structural engineers, MEP teams, and interior designers to find ways to save money. They made modifications in materials, landscaping, and interiors worth $4.5 million in savings, nowhere near the $20 million they needed. Martin decided to dig deeper.

Among the project’s design complexities was its trapezoidal footprint and underground garage. The original garage design averaged 471 feet per parking space, because of its unconventional shape.  The weight of landscaping and emergency vehicle traffic above the garage outside of the building footprints required additional structural components and waterproofing.

Chevy Chase Lake photo courtesy of Bozzuto Construction Company

While the three building designs couldn’t be altered, the garage was fair game, so Martin’s team “blew it up.” That’s how it earned the nickname “The Nuclear Garage.” They started from scratch, simplifying the shape into a rectangle and adding a third subterranean level to recoup lost space. Then they did the hard work of getting approval from the original designer, and geotechnical, civil and structural engineers.  With the team’s buy-in, Martin presented the new garage design to the owner, developer, and contractor. 

“As the architect of record on the Chevy Chase Lake redevelopment, Martin Architectural brought important attention to detail throughout construction documentation and administration, combined with creativity in resolving the typical challenges of construction,” says Jeff Kayce, SVP and Managing Director of Bozzuto Development. 

“For instance, as we pursued cost reductions prior to closing, Martin proposed a major revision to the below-grade garage. Ultimately it saved the project several million dollars and will deliver a better experience to the community,” adds Kayce.

By changing to a more efficient grid design, reducing the need for waterproofing, and lessening the structural loads, the new garage saved $4.5 million. Overall, the entire design team along with Martin’s value engineering saved nine to ten million dollars in construction costs. 

President of Bozzuto Construction Mark Weisner says, “It is creative thinking like this and a lack of staunch ego that allows for a true team approach to the design process.”

According to Dan McCauley, “We ended up with a better project going backwards.” Martin solved a functional issue that saved money and increased constructability, bringing the project back on track.

Working with the same client on another project, Martin agreed to become the architect of record after the design phase had already been completed by another team. At the same time, they were both designer and architect of record for a nearby project with the same construction company. Later the construction manager questioned why the latter project consistently came in cheaper than the other of similar size and style. 

“When we start a project, we think about the things that reduce costs without sacrificing good design. We add value engineering into our design process,” says McCauley. “That’s our job.”

Bozzuto’s Weisner adds, “When I think about Martin Architectural, it is their willingness, and I would even say eagerness to be challenged that comes to mind. Throughout their design process they want to know if what they are providing makes the most sense for the client in regard to design aesthetic, function, maintainability, and overall upfront and long-term cost.”

 ARCHITECTS AND URBAN PLANNERS 

The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transitoriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PLAN

www.MartinAIA.com • 215.665.1080 • 240 N. 22nd Street, Philadelphia

Principals

In Memoriam

Ronald D. Seiboth, AIA


December 14, 1950 – September 6, 2020

With heavy hearts and much sadness we share the news of the passing of one of our longest tenured colleagues, Ron Seiboth.

He was an outstanding design architect planner, business partner, and a kind, fair and honest person.

Ron was a steady influence at our organization from the time he joined us in 1982 and provided great creative input to the organization.

Over the past 38 years we enjoyed getting to know Ron personally as well as professionally.

Ron is survived by his wife Nancy, his daughters Laura and Rachel, and his son Matt, his father and grandchildren. We offer our sincerest condolences to Ron’s family.

Ron will be truly missed by all of us and we are grateful for the amount of time we shared together.

Ron’s drawings have always been creative presence in our office; our desks will feel empty without them.


His last project in design… Beltway will live on

MARTIN ARCHITECTURAL CELEBRATES 50 YEARS OF AWARD-WINNING ARCHITECTURE

The Martin Architectural Group, whose projects include Annapolis Towne Centre and the new Promenade at Granite Run in Media, PA, has been known for its modern mixed-use designs and placemaking experiences since its inception in 1967. Martin celebrated the firm’s 50th Anniversary with a cocktail party at the Pyramid Club on November 2nd, highlighting their major projects all along the east coast and into the mid-west. 

Jim Riviello, President, says the guest list for their celebration was full of employees, business associates, and clients as a way to thank them for their dedication and support over the last half-century. During the festivities, guests enjoyed spectacular views of the city that Martin helped to shape and has always called home, as the firm spread its wings in the boom times and maintained the city as its base through leaner years when many of their competitors closed their doors. 

 “It was a great event recognizing a landmark accomplishment,” says Marianne Scott of the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia. Hilary Goldfarb, Ryan Lee Stewart, and Laurie Allen Bilski of the Bozzuto Companies traveled all the way from their office in Greenbelt, Maryland to attend the event saying they were “thrilled to be in attendance.” Guests even took part in a napkin sketch contest to celebrate 50 years of architectural design; colorful portraits, cityscapes, and general well wishes were put on display. 

For 50 years, Martin has been providing design services to the private sector real estate development industry. Master plans developed in the Philadelphia office have come to life all over the country, from Denver to New York, and Maine to Florida. The impressive two-mile master plan of Port Imperial, NJ, with breathtaking views of the NYC skyline, continues to shape the region. The firm’s tag line, “It’s all about the Plan,” captures the livability of the dynamic spaces they create, from shopping centers and mall revisions, to single-family homes and apartment style modern living. 

Employees of Martin still trek each morning to the iconic building at 22nd and Summer Streets, welcomed by the gently weathering column at the entry, the cantilevered floors sheltering the cars below. Through the expansive glass walls of the studio space, views to the Buttonwood Cityview Towers, designed by Martin in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Museum of Art continue to provide inspiration to the architects within. 

 Martin has developed “a wonderful place for learning, creating, and comradery,” says Jason DeCampli, who has been with the firm since 2006. “Working in this great team environment and seeing many different projects come to life makes my job extremely gratifying.” Recognizing the firm’s efforts to educate the next generation of architects, AIA Pennsylvania recently listed Martin as a 2017 AIA PA Firms Fostering Emerging Professionals, adding to their already extensive list of awards accumulated over the past 50 years. 

Event Photography: John Cruice Photography
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MARTIN PROJECT VISUALS 

 You lost your anchor – now what? How a property can reinvent itself in the community 

 Drew Romanic 
 The Martin Architectural Group, P.C. 



With proper foresight and attention to the needs and opportunities available, a neighborhood center that has lost its anchor can continue to thrive and serve its community. The ever changing landscape of retail has a mantra of “adapt or die” and is always striving to stay relevant to the consumer. Aesthetic and experience rule the day and require astute attention to detail when planning for the reinvention of a property 


 For decades, the neighborhood shopping center has been a pillar of the community it serves. It is the go-to for groceries, hardware, and soft goods, even the favorite pizza shop and barber. The mix of tenants is symbiotic, with larger anchors supporting the small shops, and the small shops providing variety to patrons of the anchor. Without the anchor, the success of the entire center can falter. In the new economy, anchor and grocery stores that have been the magnet for community centers have been increasingly eliminated by larger standalone “category killers” and mega-stores down the road. What opportunities are there when an anchor leaves? 

How can the property reinvent itself into a place the community will embrace and continue to support? When a new direction is chosen, it is imperative that the local citizens and community leaders believe in and support the new vision. It is not always true that “if you build it, they will come.” 

When embarking on the path to redevelop the property, several key members of the team must include: a land use attorney, a traffic engineer, a planner or landscape architect, a civil engineer, and an architect. Each one plays an important role in ensuring the vision of the property does not come to an early end and can lead the project to successful completion. 

What obstacles to redevelopment may stand in your way? When introducing new uses or non-traditional tenants, the team must be prepared to review deed restrictions, REA’s, ROW’s, and planning and zoning ordinances to understand what can and cannot be done. Challenges from traffic and access to the site, as well as parking restrictions, should all be considered early. Be sure to engage the governing agency and local community to gather support for the new direction of the property. 

Is it appropriate to add new uses or non-traditional tenants? Depending on the needs of the community, multifamily residential, municipal or community uses such as a library, athletic club, or sports fields can all serve as the new anchor and once again drive traffic to the center. 

Multifamily residential that replaces the anchor tenant can significantly increase foot traffic around the property with a captive audience. This audience demands a high level of built aesthetics around a common open area, which will encourage and create a distinct vibe for the new project’s identity. This open space can  also encourage the privacy of the new residents while providing the convenience of amenities including dining, recreation, and shopping. 

Can the center become a dining destination for the larger community? Offering multiple cuisines and after hours entertainment can provide a non-stop draw of patrons. Existing services and smaller retailers can benefit from the additional dining options. 

Can the introduction of offices support the new center’s identity? Adding offices and professional services may not sustain traffic into the evening hours long enough to generate the necessary dwell time for the existing tenants to survive. A perfect blend of medical or professional services with extended hours along with multiple food and beverage choices may encourage small shop dwell time and increase opportunities for specialty stores. 

Can the property be reconfigured for pad development? If so, which types of pads are needed or required? How will it impact the remaining tenants and flow of the center? Bridging the pads to the core of the center with green space can be important to the reinvention of the center. These spaces can be used for community activities and outdoor dining, furthering a blend of patrons. Landscaped areas with seating, which invite relaxation and interaction by the patrons, can create a sense of place that users will appreciate and revisit time and again. 

 With proper foresight and attention to the needs and opportunities available, a neighborhood center that has lost its anchor can continue to thrive and serve its community. The ever changing landscape of retail has a mantra of “adapt or die” and is always striving to stay relevant to the consumer. Aesthetic and experience rule the day and require astute attention to detail when planning for the reinvention of a property. Losing an anchor is not the end of the world. With the right team, dedication, approach and a strong vision for the property, it may be a blessing in disguise.  

 ARCHITECTS AND URBAN PLANNERS 

The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transit-oriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development. Image of the new CHOP center at the revisioned Promenade at Granite Run

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS 

www.MartinAIA.com • 215.665.1080 • 240 N. 22nd Street, Philadelphia

DISTILLED Housing Development Toolkit

Annaliese (Cole) Trehan, RA
Assistant Project Manager


Last month, the White House released a “Housing Development Toolkit” with specific steps that local governments can take to ease the burdens of housing development and increase supply. It was a long time coming. For three decades, increased regulatory burdens have led to higher costs and decreased affordability. By easing these barriers and allowing the housing market to respond to demand, cities can attract more residents and businesses who will contribute to increased tax revenues, ease financial pressure on working families, and facilitate more beautiful and accessible neighborhoods.

You can read the entire report here, but the Martin Architectural Group has distilled the main points for you below:

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT BARRIERS?

  • Land use and zoning restrictions
  • Off-street parking requirements
  • Arbitrary or antiquated preservation regulations
  • Residential conversion restrictions
  • Unnecessarily slow permitting process

 WHAT ARE THE ASSOCIATED COSTS?

  • High housing production cost
  • Less affordable housing supply
  • Limited population growth and tax revenue gains
  • Displacement away from job markets
  • Longer commutes and more traffic congestion

WHAT ARE THE FUTURE GOALS?

  • Protect home owners and home values while maintaining affordability.
  • Enhance the beauty and livability of our neighborhoods by encouraging infill development.
  • Optimize transportation system use and reduce commute times and traffic congestion.
  • Facilitate a more equitable distribution of new housing.

WHAT’S IN THE TOOLKIT?

(Excerpts from Housing Development Toolkit, September 2016)

1. Establish by-right development

A 2014 report by the Urban Land Institute concludes that “municipalities can facilitate more efficient development time frames and reduce costs by enabling more by-right development. This can be accomplished by relaxing restrictions related to density, building height, unit size, and parking minimums, thereby freeing developers from the need to seek waivers, variances, or rezoning.”

2. Tax vacant land or donate it to non-profit developers

Many localities increase vacant land fees the longer a property remains vacant, which encourages lot owners to put their properties to more productive use, such as redevelopment. Once vacant property has been identified, jurisdictions are able to take action to combat the lost revenue and blight that come with vacant property by taxing vacant land or donating to non-profit developers.

3. Streamline or shorten permitting processes and timelines

Unnecessarily lengthy permitting processes restrict long-run housing supply responsiveness to demand, and also present an inefficiency for city planners and reviewers whose time could be more effectively spent on essential tasks. Most localities’ permitting processes do not fully leverage new technology to achieve greater speed, reliability and efficiency.

4. Eliminate off-street parking requirements

Parking requirements generally impose an undue burden on housing development, particularly for transit-oriented or affordable housing. When transit-oriented developments are intended to help reduce automobile dependence, parking requirements can undermine that goal by inducing new residents to drive, thereby counteracting city goals for increased use of public transit, walking and biking. Such requirements can also waste developable land, and reduce the potential for other amenities to be included; a recent Urban Land Institute study found that minimum parking requirements were the most noted barrier to housing development in the course of their research. By reducing parking and designing more connected, walkable developments, cities can reduce pollution, traffic congestion and improve economic development. Businesses that can be accessed without a car can see increased revenue, increased use of alternative modes of transportation, and improved health outcomes for residents.

5. Enact high-density and multifamily zoning

Local zoning code changes that allow for the development of higher-density and multifamily housing, especially in transit zones, can help to alleviate some of the pressure of the growing population in many city centers.

6. Allow accessory dwelling units

Accessory dwelling units can expand the available rental housing stock in areas zoned largely for single-family housing and can address the needs of families pulled between caring for their children and their aging parents, a demographic that has been growing rapidly in recent years.

Accessory dwelling units offer one solution to this challenge by facilitating intergenerational living arrangements and allowing more seniors to age in place, something that nearly 90% of older Americans desire for themselves and their families.

7. Establish density bonuses

Density bonuses encourage housing development and incentivize the addition of affordable housing units by granting projects in which the developer includes a certain number of affordable housing units the ability to construct a greater number of market rate units than would otherwise be allowed. Density bonuses are frequently tied to community goals of increased affordable housing and can be effective in driving larger quantities of units supplied through new construction.

8. Employ inclusionary zoning

Inclusionary zoning requires or encourages the inclusion of affordable units in new residential development projects. Not only have such policies expanded the availability of affordable housing while allowing for new development that otherwise might have been locally opposed, they have also been shown to improve educational outcomes for low-income children gaining access to higher-performing schools

9. Establish development tax or value capture incentives

Tax incentives for developers who construct affordable housing offer another avenue to incentivize development; such incentives have been demonstrated to spur development, and have recently been adopted in Seattle and New York City.

10. Use property tax abatements

Property tax abatements or exemptions can encourage the construction of affordable housing and spur development more generally, including by providing abatements to affordable housing production during the development phase.

As architects and planners, Martin is keenly aware of the difficulties faced by developers in the housing industry. Contact us to hear how we can support you in your next endeavor.

 ARCHITECTS AND LAND PLANNERS

 The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transit-oriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development. 

 IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PLAN 

www.MartinAIA.com • 215.665.1080 • 240 N. 22nd Street, Philadelphia

 The Martin Architectural Group continues to create and improve communities with care 

Daniel McCauley
 The Martin Architectural Group, P.C. 


 The walls of the East Coast-based Martin Architectural Group resonate with award-winning, land planning and architectural projects. Founded on the principle of building relationships, not chasing projects, the firm focuses solely on work for developers, both public and private. Our expertise ranges from residential and commercial work, through mixed-use designs of all sizes. With a focus on image, reputation, and world class design standards, we have forged long-standing relationships with valued clients. By listening to their needs we achieve organic, practical, and inspiring designs, not forced ambitions. 

 Our involvement as master planners and full service architects begins with a raw site. We analyze all relevant data to recommend both site utilization and building design, and continue our project involvement through the final coat of paint to fulfill the client’s vision. As a mid-sized architecture firm, The Martin Architectural Group uniquely provides both the level of service and staff depth that developers rely on for quality and timely responses, as well as a personal approach with a cost competitive benefit. 

With each individual opportunity, we guide the project team and strive for the highest and best use of the site. By doing exactly this, we maximize the highest efficiency of density and retain immeasurable amounts of open space when compared with traditional, lower-density design rationale. The proper site approach, building orientation, street frontage, and building composition all take center stage during the planning and design process. The key, however, is not merely forcing the largest density of building allowed by zoning and code onto a site; to be truly successful, costs of construction and building type must be weighed against the value inherent in the property. We strive to optimize density on a site, thereby maximizing the value of the project. 

By planning for maximum yield and best use in collaboration with the community, the project will provide the strongest results for both the developer and the neighborhood. Viewing the site and building as vital components within the larger surrounding context is crucial for success. 

A key consideration of higher density residential, retail, or mixed-use projects requires balancing the pedestrian with the automobile when planning access to the site. As important as visibility, loading, and vehicular access to and throughout the site may be, the treatment of the pedestrian component remains significantly more critical. The streetscape must feel inviting and walkable. Activated areas for gathering, such as plazas, fountains, fireplaces, and dog parks, provide site wide connectivity and recreation. Tree-lined streets, buffered with parallel parking and reduced-speed roads, create inviting shopping districts and allow towne centers to thrive. Each of these ideas creates a more inviting project fully connected to its neighborhood. 

Today, more than any time in the past, our firm focuses on infill projects, TODs (Transit Oriented Designs), brownfield and greyfield sites located in urban cores, and secondary tier areas within 45 miles of major metropolitan areas. Infill sites and locations requiring environmental remediation have become more prevalent in our current projects. The opportunities these sites present, either by financial incentives or location within a given area, provide a double benefit for any project. First, the site provides a prime location within a given, established area to increase or better the use of the site. Second, the site strengthens the neighboring community and encourages future development nearby. TOD projects, those within a half mile of train stations or metro stops, have capitalized on today’s backlash against a dependency on automobiles. These projects thrive on reducing commutes for those in or near large urban cities. The existing infrastructure and reduction in car use minimizes the money spent and land used for transportation needs, making TOD projects viable and attractive to many who are not interested in the encumbrance of a car. By providing more disposable income to improve quality of life and social experience, these projects require acute attention to offering a mix of uses to their residents, integrating retail, restaurant, and entertainment into each project. Many TODs are extending the landscape of an existing urban or exurban fabric and can focus more heavily on residential and office components. 

The Martin Architectural Group has been creating and improving communities for nearly five decades with thoughtfulness and care. As we look to the future of our firm and the built environment, it is clear that careful stewardship of our communities is explicit and imperative. Give us a call today and see how we can add value to your next endeavor. 

 ARCHITECTS AND LAND PLANNERS

 The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transit-oriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development. 

 IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PLAN 

www.MartinAIA.com • 215.665.1080 • 240 N. 22nd Street, Philadelphia

Design Insights for Today’s Renters

Annaliese (Cole) Trehan, RA
Assistant Project Manager


The largest cohort of renters today is, of course, the Millennial generation. I fall squarely in the middle of this age group and have lived in many different sizes and shapes of apartments and condos over the last eight years or so. As a designer, I have kept my eyes open to the different approaches apartment owners take and kept my ears open when listening to friends discuss their current living situations. I’ve used this experience, and some serious Googling time, to curate a list of what today’s renters are looking for. And here it is:

CONNECTIVITY – Millennials are the first generation native to technology, and most of them happily incorporate it into their daily lives. When searching for an apartment, their first stop is a web search, and their last will be electronically signing their lease. Internet access and cell reception throughout an apartment community is considered a must. From choosing their unit to paying rent and submitting a maintenance request, Millennials prefer a virtual communication portal and up-to-date technology.

CONTEXT – Millennials are favoring urban living for its culture and inherently mixed uses, whether in a city core or a more suburban towne centre. Unlike their parents’ generation, they will gladly sacrifice personal space to live in a good location. A grocery store nearby is important to keep their pantry stocked.

CHOICE – Millennials grew up in the age of internet shopping and big-box stores. They are used to having many options and expect to be able to choose their preferred living arrangement. Having a variety of unit sizes available in an apartment community will keep their choices close to home.

CONTENT – With apartment unit sizes shrinking and Millennials forgoing personal space, the common spaces within an apartment community become even more important. Lobbies are taking their cue from hotels with high-design elements and construction. Renters will be looking for amenity spaces to supplement their smaller living quarters with areas for congregation, study, fitness, and entertainment. A roof deck and fire pit, or maybe even an infinity pool, top it all off.

COMMUNITY – Millennials are not only social online, but crave interaction with friends in person. They will be more likely to renew a lease if their friends live in the same apartment community and there are ample opportunities to run into each other throughout their days.

CONVENIENCE – Live / Work / Play is the new American Dream. Millennials are used to boundaries being blurred between where and when they work or play and much of it happens right at home. With flexible working arrangements and online everything, life can happen anywhere. An apartment community and its neighborhood can offer a renter convenient access to all of life’s necessities.

COMFORT – All renters look for some level of comfort in their new surroundings and the ability to live their lives as they have in the past, or better than they have in the past. A clean environment can lead to a restful and healthy life. An accommodating fitness center is becoming more and more important as many renters see the benefit of having a gym in their community. It becomes a sign of the healthy lifestyle they strive to live.

CUSTOMIZATION – Millennials are unlike the generations that came before them and do not like to fit into any molds. They are not their parents and yearn for the freedom to be an individual. Their apartment becomes a blank canvas that they can make their own.

CHARACTER – Millennials look for character and authenticity in their lives. They know a gimmick when they see one and prefer an honest material to a fake substitute. They look for quality materials that are easy to maintain, but different from what they may find in their parents’ home. A recycled glass or quartz counter top will catch their eye.

COST – Millennials have been educated with words like “green” and “sustainable” and know their value. They choose car shares over owning a vehicle, and walking or biking rather than driving. Location near public transit is incredibly important. They would like to be considerate of the environment, and favor green technologies that don’t affect their pocketbooks.

And that’s it! A neat and orderly list researched and written by your very own Millennial.

 ARCHITECTS AND LAND PLANNERS

 The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transit-oriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development. 

 IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PLAN 

www.MartinAIA.com • 215.665.1080 • 240 N. 22nd Street, Philadelphia

Mixed and planned built environments are eliminating the strict segregation of land uses

 Steven Mast 
 The Martin Architectural Group, P.C. 



Steven Mast, AICP, LEED AP, is director of planning for The Martin Architectural Group, P.C., Philadelphia, Penn.


The public and private realms come together and create a captivating social experience. Mixed and successfully planned built environments are eliminating the strict segregation of land uses. Cities are moving toward compact development and land use efficiency to reduce congestion and create more walkable neighborhoods. The traditions that drive these designs are grounded in the principles of traditional neighborhood design. Successful mixed-use developments create the perfect blend of commercial, residential, civic, institutional, and industrial uses.

The goals of land planners, architects, and developers are adapting to the desires of an educated public and mature tenants. In a world where reality TV shows drive TV ratings, is it really any surprise that development projects that mix and mingle the private and public lives of people are successful? It is human nature to want to be part of a community and a neighborhood. The pedestrians walking along the tree lined sidewalks buffered from the cars on the street by parallel or diagonal parking; the store and restaurant patrons interacting with shop owners; the office employees sneaking a peak out their windows during a moment of relaxed daydreaming are all the actors in a well-planned and developed mixeduse project. The developers of these projects are the directors of this experience. They pull the strings and assemble the team needed to realize the project. The land planners and architects are the writers in this real life drama. They use time tested design techniques, proportions that relate to human scale, and the right mix of uses to activate and bring these mixed-use projects to life.

At the Martin Architectural Group, I have worked on various mixeduse projects. In general a common misconception is that mixed-use developments need to have retail or offices on the ground floor with residential on the upper floors. This is simply not always feasible. Budget and zoning limitations often force the hand of developers and the design team. Mixed-use projects can exist in different forms but it is common to see them as either horizontal, vertical or some walkable combination of the two. Horizontal mixed-use brings together complimentary land uses without the complexity in financing and zoning that occurs when these uses are layered in vertical mixed-use. Vertical mixed-use is more common when land values are high and there is a premium on space. The most common mixed-use projects are the result of a vision that combines the traits of both horizontal and vertical mixed-use projects. The mixing of uses is a catalyst for building efficient and compact neighborhoods. Residents of these neighborhoods have the ability to live, work, and play all within a short distance of their front door.

Currently, mall revisions are a growing trend for mixed-use developments. Over the past half century, malls popped up in increasing numbers in suburbia. Struggling to survive, many of them are now overparked and underutilized. We have been re-envisioning these malls as true mixed-use neighborhood centers. The Granite Run Mall in Media, PA is one such mall. The initial concepts are more horizontal in nature but the combination and integration of the various land uses on the site will reinvigorate the site and repurpose much of the existing infrastructure. The project will have two residential buildings wrapped around structured parking in close proximity to the new shopping district. The revitalization of this property will serve as a catalyst for future projects in the community. Mixed-use projects have the ability to reinvent a site and shape the way a community interacts. These interactions will lead to more successful projects in the future well beyond the site’s lot lines.

Mixed-use projects require a holistic approach by the design team. Uses such as residential and commercial need be integrated and their success or failure ultimately is intertwined with each other. The offices are active between 9-5 but restaurants and shops need to keep the streets busy into the evening. The residents of the buildings need to have the ability to walk to their daily needs. Oftentimes neighborhood grocery stores serve as the retail anchor in these projects. When planning and designing the McHenry Row mixed-use project, located in the Locust Point community in Baltimore City, Harris Teeter was utilized as the driving retail force behind the commercial components of the project. The residents in this vertical mixed-use project live above retail and office space. They have easy access to various dining and retail options below.

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In Memoriam

Andrew Sullivan


On Saturday, November 15th, Architect and Planner Andrew T. Sullivan age 69, died from his injuries in a motorcycle accident near his home in South Florida. Andy was a graduate of Penn State University B.Arch. and Columbia University MS Urban Planning. For the past 14 years, Andy led The Martin Architectural Group’s South Florida Division in Coconut Creek, Florida. Prior to joining Martin, Andy was a partner in the Philadelphia firms of Brown, Sullivan & Goldfarb and Sullivan & Arfaa. In 1973 he founded Sullivan Associates Architects and Planners. He is survived by his wife Pat, two children Brian and Lindsay, and grandchild. Funeral services were held privately with family.