AvalonBay Communities Inc. – Avalon Newcastle Phase 1

AvalonBayAvalonBay keeps complete control of its Newcastle project by building it on its own.

By Alan Dorich

Homebuyers can count on AvalonBay Communities to be efficient when delivering projects, Project Manager Scott Wendlandt says. “What makes us successful is having consistency in our ability to bring product to market faster than anyone in the industry,” he says.

AvalonBay is bringing that quality to the first phase of Avalon Newcastle, a large planned community in Newcastle, Wash. The firm is building the first three properties of the 10-parcel project, Wendlandt says. AvalonBay info box 2

“One of them has a seven-townhome structure which has 43 residential homes,” he explains, noting that the second portion has 254 units. “The last parcel is a mixed-use building.”

Standing five floors, the building will feature a single floor with retail space and the remainder will have 60 apartment homes. Additionally, “Located in the same structure is four townhome structures that equate to 21 apartment homes,” Wendlandt says.

Brick by Brick

AvalonBay is both the owner and builder on the Newcastle project. “It gives us way more control,” Wendlandt says. “We’re able to make decisions between design and construction.”

A unique aspect of this project, he notes, is the building’s location. “Back in the early 1900s, it was a coal mining site,” he says, noting that this required AvalonBay to do some remediation work.

But in the late 1950s, the site also was home to a brick manufacturer. “When we took over the property, there were very large piles of brick throwaways,” Wendlandt recalls.

“We crushed all that down to use as fill within the site,” he says, noting that this will help the project achieve LEED Silver certification. “We used it for base fill to get us to our subgrades to build upon.”

Amazing Amenities

Newcastle will feature a variety of amenities when finished, including a pool and a dog park with a fountain for the pets to drink from, Wendlandt says. The community also will have barbecue grills in various locations so tenants can cook outdoors.

“Internally, there’s a Wi-Fi lounge and fitness studios,” he adds, noting that residents will be able to access video on-demand workouts. “There’s also a kitchen area with large screen TVs and a play area for kids’ events and things of that nature.”

Such a strong slate of amenities are common to the company’s projects, Wendlandt adds. “AvalonBay does a really good job of separating themselves from the competition by providing a wide variety,” he says.

AvalonBay has worked well with its subcontractors on the Newcastle project, Wendlandt says. “[They’re] very good,” he says. “They seem to be taking it on very well.”

The company also works with them on sharpening their safety skills. “Every quarter, we have what we call a ‘stand down,’ where all employees are taken to a lunch hour,” he describes. “We basically bring everybody together to talk about safety and how they can go about approaching their work.”

This reflects AvalonBay’s utilization of the Incident and Injury Free safety approach on the project. “It’s [about making] a positive impact with the workers so they think about the process and go home to their families at the end of the day,” he says.

Busy in Seattle

Based in Arlington, Va., AvalonBay develops, redevelops, acquires and manages apartment homes in strong U.S. markets. Wendlandt, who has 10 years with the company, notes that the Seattle market is especially busy.

This has made it difficult to find enough qualified personnel who can meet AvalonBay’s aggressive schedules, he admits. However, the company has coped well with the challenge on the Newcastle project and hired multiple trades.

For example, “We don’t just have one framer out here,” he says. “We have two framers. We also have different plumbing contractors for the townhomes and commercial buildings.

“It provides us with flexibility,” he says. “[We can] see different companies and try to get more work done at the same time.”

AvalonBay plans to start the next phase of the Newcastle project in 2017. However, “It’s all based on when we start leasing [this phase],” Wendlandt says. “But the market’s pretty hot and we’ll try to start pursuing it next year.”

He predicts that AvalonBay will continue to prosper. “We’re the No. 2 real estate investment trust in the nation,” he says. “We continue to turn out great products. After we’re done, residents are eager to move in and enjoy living in our homes.”

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