In a quarter-century as a leading residential developer and builder in the nation’s capital, EYA co-founder Robert Youngentob has been at the forefront of many housing trends. He’s seen the company’s core market evolve from yuppies and DINKs to hipsters and millennials, and he’s watched walkable urban housing—a mainstay of EYA projects—migrate to the suburbs. But no matter the decade, architectural excellence has always been in style for Youngentob and EYA.
Sophisticated, neighborhood-appropriate design has helped the 92-employee Bethesda, Md.–based firm earn thousands of satisfied buyers and a reputation as a developer that’s committed to decidedly un-production housing. EYA has built more than 4,000 single-family townhomes and multifamily units in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, averaging about 200 a year.
The firm’s award-winning projects fit in with the D.C. area’s diverse neighborhoods, from classic townhomes on Capitol Hill and Arts & Crafts–style dwellings in Arlington, Va., to contemporary condos on the Alexandria, Va., waterfront. This commitment to location-centric design has been front and center since the company’s founding in 1992.
Backed by an in-house design team, Youngentob is influenced by historic urban neighborhoods in the U.S. and Europe. Timeless designs are augmented by quality materials (no faux details here) that make EYA’s new-construction projects feel like they’ve been part of a community for years. “From the beginning we felt strongly that it’s worth investing extra dollars in streetscape and hard features because that’s what buyers respond to,” Youngentob says.
EYA is a leader in developing new prototypes for infill housing in walkable communities, notes KTGY Group principal Rohit Anand, who has consulted on the firm’s projects for the past six years. “These innovations have been in many high-density product types such as back-to-backs, three- and four-story towns with rooftop terraces, stacked towns, and towns stacked on structured parking podiums,” he says.
Since the company’s founding, much has changed in the D.C. infill market. Today’s urban dwellers want to stay in the city or continue to live in walkable urban environments once they have a family, and EYA has followed suit with offerings such as optional lofts and ground-floor apartment spaces for a boomerang child or aging parent. “We’re adapting designs that can really serve those families without forcing people to move to the suburbs,” Youngentob says.
Interior design trends have moved from traditional to contemporary, Youngentob notes, and in-demand locations are changing, too, as smart growth has flourished beyond the Beltway. “While job centers don’t have to be right downtown anymore, the basic concept of being able to walk out front door and have access to recreation, retail, employment, and transit still is the watchword of what we look for in locations,” he says.
As the company prepares to celebrate its 25th year in business, Youngentob’s biggest challenge is one many builders face: how to provide quality housing that doesn’t price buyers out of the market.
To that end, EYA is exploring higher-density projects as well as layouts that will provide the amenities of a fee-simple townhouse in a smaller, less expensive package (10% to 20% less square footage than EYA’s standard model, Youngentob says).
“The ultimate goal is trying to offer housing that is more affordable to our primary target markets,” he says.