Overhead Design Interesting ceiling treatments help sell condos in Kalamazoo.
Courtesy American Village Builders Overhead Design Interesting ceiling treatments help sell condos in Kalamazoo.

Home shoppers could probably have navigated through American Village Builders’ old Oakland Hills condominium models blindfolded and still guess which room they were in every step of the way.

“It was floor planning that has been around for better than 20 years,” says Jack Gesmundo, vice president and an owner of the Kalamazoo, Mich.–based builder.

The common plan coupled with the suffering Michigan home market failed to inspire many buyers to purchase. A little more than a year ago the community’s sales had slowed with sales of the interior four-plex units all but stopped.

“I liken it to building the Ford Taurus,” says Gesmundo. “It’s a great car, but you have got to give somebody a reason to buy a new one.”

So American Village Builders hired Dominick Tringali Architects to help revamp the Oakland Hills products as well as other American Village designs, says Gesmundo.

The first step was to get rid of the four-plex buildings in favor of all duplex units, eliminating the interior units that almost nobody was willing to buy. The city approved a plan change for smaller side-yard setbacks that allowed the builder to only lose two units in the 136-unit community.

In addition, Tringali helped develop six entirely new condominium plans. The big plan change was to flip the former configuration with the kitchen and nook eating area in the front, instead placing the second bedroom or den in that space. The front-to-back vaulted ceiling was replaced with drama-adding ceiling details such as coves and coffers.

The new models’ impact on sales was immediate. The first two units sold before they were halfway finished, and the momentum continues.

The units are selling at a rate of 1½ a month. That’s fast for condos in Kalamazoo where Oakland Hills’ sales accounted for about two-thirds of all the condominium sales in the same price range in the project’s first nine months. “We’re tickled,” says Gesmundo.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Detroit, MI.