Richard McKown feels no pressure to advertise his newly opened Level Urban Apartments at NE 2 and Walnut Avenue. He doesn't have to; the complex was fully leased when it opened last month.
Down the street, also along NE 2, construction plans are being readied for the next phase of “for sale” housing at The Hill after the once slow-selling units were grabbed up by a mix of empty nesters and young professionals.
Families, long missing from the equation, also are now in the mix.
McKown and other developers say they're seeing a shift in the downtown population as housing picks up steam with the upcoming opening of Native Roots Market, downtown's first grocery, and planning for a charter elementary school and streetcar system.
New residents include the owners of Native Roots, Matt and Sara Runkle, who along with their infant daughter, Stella, live full time in an apartment over the grocery. Two blocks to the north, Kurt and Charla Gwartney and their 12-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, are looking forward to when they can walk to get their groceries from their home at the Block 42 condominiums.
Similar aspirations are shared by Kyle and Kate Jones, who along with their 10-month-old daughter, Ramsey, are living at The Hill.
“The sense of community that is downtown is stronger than anything I've ever seen in any of the suburban communities I have worked in,” McKown said. “The opportunities are so tangible and real, and the housing choices are growing.”
Those housing choices were key to Kate Jones agreeing to move downtown — a move she admits she only contemplated after her husband bribed her with a new car.
She was worried about what opportunities would be lost for their daughter.
“Where is she going to learn to ride her bike?” Kate Jones recalled worrying. “Where will there be other children for her to play with? I wasn't even willing to give it a chance.”
With the offer of a new car, the soon-to-be mom searched online. She rejected the first two for-sale housing projects she found because they were multilevel with living areas on the second floor. But she quickly warmed up to The Hill, which she said “felt homey,” and had amenities, including a two-car garage, to which she was accustomed.