STAMFORD, Conn. — When Zahir Dossa decided to propose to his girlfriend, he wanted to do it at a favorite spot— the private rooftop deck of the couple’s downtown apartment.
“I’m spoiled,” says Dossa, the 29-year-old CEO of a Stamford-based beauty startup for personalized shampoo. “We have one of the nicer loft units.”
Guests planning to attend Dossa’s nuptials in September include a couple he met shooting pool in the common area of 75 Tresser, one of Stamford’s most upscale and amenity-filled— not to mention pricey —new rental developments on Tresser Boulevard.
“It’s pretty chill,” Dossa says of the space where he sits typing on a slim MacBook Air, facing two flat-screen TVs and a pool table.
A sea of sofas accented with plaid and houndstooth pillows is just one amenity that Dossa utilizes at 75 Tresser. Three nights a week, he grills in a courtyard off the second floor.
“I’m one of the people who uses it more regularly,” he says. “They’ve got nice Webers.”
High-end grills and pool tables might seem over the top for a rental building, but experts say lavish apartment communities catering to millennials— the generation currently in their 20s and early 30s —are dominating Stamford’s real estate market.
“With the millennials coming in, it’s a different market,” says Jennifer Gartner, community manager at 75 Tresser, whose residents are mostly 35 and under. “They start off being supported, so their expectations are higher and their demands are higher.”
Beyond amenities that aim to make life easier for residents— full-service gyms, concierges to sign for packages, dry cleaning pickup and delivery —the perks offered at 75 Tresser and elsewhere are designed to foster a social environment for singles, and even families.
Rental units in Harbor Point high-rises or downtown at The Moderne and Park Square West start at about $2,000 a month. Communities such as these come standard with gyms, media rooms, dog-washing stations, espresso machines, pool tables and rooftop decks.
Real estate experts liken the buildings to a college-dorm environment— minus the cinder block walls and shared bathrooms.
At 75 Tresser, there’s even a kegerator— a favorite for millennial beer lovers.
Real estate developers have hinged their investment in short-term rentals on Stamford’s soaring millennial population who, unlike their cohorts elsewhere in the nation, have the means to shell out for luxury rentals.
“In lower Fairfield County, more people can afford to live like this at a younger and younger age,” Gartner says.
The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area has long been recognized as one of the wealthiest places in the nation.
In 2014, Forbes magazine declared the Stamford metro area a top destination for 24- to 34-year-olds, based on Fairfield County’s median salary of $63,000 and average yearly job growth of 2 percent. Among other draws, Stamford is also home to a host of large employers, including four Fortune 500 companies: Charter Communications, which just became the No. 2 cable provider in the nation with the acquisition of Time Warner Cable; audio entertainment giant Harman; Starwood Hotels; and United Rentals.
Average income among downtown Stamford residents surpasses the whole county, with salaries topping $110,000, according to Sandy Goldstein, president of the Downtown Special Services District. Goldstein says 65 percent of those residents are millennials and nearly 80 percent have college degrees.
“Our millennials are smart and they have expendable cash,” she says. “That means they give downtown a sense of vibrancy and excitement because they have the money to go out to the restaurants, the theater and to go shopping.”
Randy Salvatore, whose RMS Construction is developing Rippowam Place a block north of 75 Tresser, says the new building will have many of the amenities that have become standard: common areas, rooftop decks and grills.
“People are so busy these days with work and other things that we’ve created a place where our residents can hang out at home and still meet new people, or bring their friends into a social environment,” he says.
Developers need these bonuses to compete with an over-saturated rental market south of the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, and to draw young professionals who want to live commuting distance from their jobs in New York.
“The main draw here is the proximity to Manhattan,” says Matt Lipton, a 30-year-old project manager who lives at 75 Tresser. “Of course, the awesome gym and pool don’t hurt.”
At Harbor Point, the sprawling South End development zoned for 4,000 housing units, the campus feel extends beyond its apartment buildings with bars, restaurants and shopping. The Harbor Point trolly circles the area up to the Metro-North station, and can be tracked using an Uber-like app.
“It almost feels like a resort,” says Cathy Belli, 28, who lives at Harbor Point’s Postmark building with her husband and 1-year-old daughter, Priscilla.
Belli often walks to shops while her husband works.
“I like that we’re not too close to the party scene, but we’re right within walking distance to whatever we need,” she says.
Ted Ferrarone, chief operating officer at Building and Land Technology, Harbor Point’s developer, says “there’s definitely a campus feeling here. People could work in the offices, live in the buildings and go out to eat at the restaurants all right here.”
The luxury rental market comes with downsides, not the least of which is the effect it has on the single-family housing market. Millennials are known for putting off home buying, preferring the freedom of renting while also lacking a down payment.
“Many of them are highly educated and they’re all earning good salaries, but they’re not forward-thinking and they’re spending so much money on these rentals,” says Barbara Hickey, a Stamford-based realtor with William Pitt Sotheby’s.
“It’s luxury that we’re showing these kids in college dorms, so that when they get out of college and start their first jobs, we’ve just continued the expectation,” she says.
Rents in buildings like 75 Tresser are steep. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit can cost more than $3,000 a month, an amount that could finance a mortgage on a home costing more than $500,000. The average size of all 75 Tresser units is roughly 900 square feet, Gartner says, with a two-bedroom unit topping 1,000 square feet.
Apartments at Element One, a new construction on Morgan Street, will start at $2,350. Amenities include a rooftop bar with pool and ping pong, test kitchen for cooking classes, indoor bike storage, self-serve pet spa, and fitness classes including spinning and Crossfit.
“I’m not sure if Element One will attract only millennials, but they are one of our target markets,” says Samuel Fuller, of Fuller Development, one of the project’s developers.
Even if many of their peers are not yet ready to purchase a home, some millennials are setting down roots in Stamford.
Hickey recently helped a woman in her late-20s purchase a home within walking distance from the New Canaan branch of the Metro-North line. Even though she could afford the home and down payment, Hickey says her beauty-conscious buyer lamented needing to cut back in other areas now that she’s a homeowner.
“She said to herself, ‘I can wait another week on my nails’ and I thought to myself— ‘finally.'”
Information from: The Advocate, http://www.stamfordadvocate.com