Ron Harwick's Design Philosophy

• Don’t be put off by very small or challenging sites—they can generate interesting projects. Case in point: JHP’s highly successful microsite communities in South Carolina and Fort Worth, Texas, squeeze 60 units into their 1-acre sites by offering three floors of studios and one-bedroom units, each 750 square feet or less.
• Realize that young renters will sacrifice living space to be located in walkable urban areas. 
• Conversely, don’t skimp on square footage for older adults, many of whom are downsizing from a single-family home and need space for their furniture. JHP produces senior housing units at about 1,200 square feet compared with the average rental apartment of 950 square feet.
• For active adults, skip the swimming pool and bring in other amenities such as movie theaters, beauty shops, arts and crafts areas, and even small exam rooms for visiting doctors.
• One-bedroom and studio apartments dominate in many markets. For this reason, in his urban projects, Harwick devotes only about 30 percent of units for two bedrooms with a minimal amount—if any—for three bedrooms.
• Baby boomers want nice kitchens for cooking; kitchens aren’t as important for millennials because they eat out often. “They use their home for working or as a stop off from their busy lives where they can rest and sleep,” says Harwick.
• Technology is seeping more into the apartment market, with products that allow renters to control HVAC and door locks. Harwick thinks this will continue to the point where tenants will demand “smart apartments.”

As co-founder of Dallas-based JHP Architecture and Urban Design, Ron Harwick designs multifamily rental projects that resonate with tenants of all ages and economic backgrounds. His expertise spans urban mixed-use, transit-oriented development, active adult communities, and affordable housing.

Although Harwick has racked up dozens of awards for his designs and for his leadership in the multifamily industry (including this year's Wm. S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence), the thing his clients love most about him is his ability to think like one of them. “He can look at a piece of land and know how to make it work on our end,” says developer Kyle Oudt of Dallas-based Lang Partners. “He knows how to make it happen.”

They also love the fact that he’s in touch with consumers, offering "livable floor plans in the right unit mix," says Oudt, with a well-considered selection of high-end and traditional products and finishes. “He understands what tenants want and that translates into rent for us,” says Oudt, who has worked with JHP since his firm was founded five ago. “He’s a great guy to have on your team.”

Signature Harwick touches include tall ceilings, oversized windows, discreet parking, and exteriors that blend in seamlessly with existing buildings. His style ranges from traditional to contemporary depending on the project, says developer Dan Doyle, who worked with Harwick on the Canalside Lofts project in Columbia, S.C., and Riviera at Seaside in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., among other developments.

Doyle’s company, Charleston, S.C.-based Beach Development, has followed Harwick’s lead in many areas, including tapping into markets and products that woo young renters. At Harwick’s urging, the Beach Co. added 500-square-foot studio floor plans into their new developments as well as ancillary areas for entertaining. “When a studio tenant has 10 friends come over, they can’t all fit in the apartment,” Doyle says. Instead, Harwick’s designs include ideas such as oversized corner balconies above first-floor retail space to take advantage of views and the energy of the street below. “People look up and want to know what’s going on up there—many times they think it’s a nightclub,” says Doyle.

Harwick is always thinking ahead to the next trend that will be in demand with renters, Doyle says, recalling when Harwick insisted that the company include electric car charging stations in a recent development, even though hardly any residents have yet to buy one.

With his firm surpassing 900,000 completed units, Harwick is happy to say he’s bullish on the rental market. “It’s going to be strong the next 10 to 15 years because of a lot of factors, including the student loan situation and the fact that people want to be more mobile,” he says. “They don’t want to be committed to one area, they want to be able to pick up and move and not worry about carrying a mortgage.”