In August, the developer AvalonBay Communities finally began construction on a 100-unit luxury condo building on 10.6 acres in Wilton, Conn., that took 11 years to get approved.
“That’s nothing,” laughs Mark Forlenza, vice president of development for AvalonBay’s office handling its work in Connecticut and New York, which has built more than 5,000 apartments in his 15 years there. Forlenza cites Avalon Green II in Greenburgh, N.Y., which took 16 years to get started, 12 years for its project in Darien, Conn., 10 years for one in Stratford, Conn., and eight years for its building in New Canaan, Conn.
“This tells you something about our DNA,” says Forlenza. It also says something about building for-rent townhouses and high-rises in densely populated Northeastern markets where the supply of quality rental housing is limited, and rents are among the highest in the nation. Forlenza also points out that land is expensive, there are few sites zoned for rental, and “rezoning is nonexistent.”
AvalonBay, which is active in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Pacific Northwest, and California, must be doing something right: Through the first six months of 2010, its profit jumped 93.4 percent, to $123.4 million, on revenue that increased 3.4 percent to $432.5 million. Those numbers are rewards for migraines some projects induce.
In Greenburgh, AvalonBay applied in 1996 for a zoned site to build 444 townhouses and flats. That itself was a modification from the 792 apartments it originally wanted. At one point, the town placed a moratorium on new development and rezoned the site, which meant AvalonBay had to redo its environmental impact surveys.
AvalonBay fought all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court to get its Wilton project approved, after the town denied its applications twice. The developer also encountered community opposition to an emergency access route the town’s planners required, Forlenza notes, ironically.