STRATEGIC DESIGN & MARKET ANALYSIS
TABLE OF CONTENTS GOAL OF THIS STUDY
SCOPE OF THIS STUDY
MARKET RESEARCH SOURCES
CURRENT ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
HOUSING SUPPLY & DEMAND
HISTORICAL DESIGN ASSUMPTIONS
PRICE POINT ANALYSIS
OPTION RATE ANALYSIS
HISTORICAL DESIGN ASSUMPTIONSâ€”WALK-UPS: Historically, multi-family units (walk-ups) have been considered a cheaper alternative to single-family homes, and were not intended to compete directly. This was mainly due to the perceived inconveniences such as density issues, less privacy, a general sense of loss of individuality, and open-air parking, to name a few. Today, the market reveals the possibility that walk-up apartments can be direct competition to the singlefamily home market, by providing equal living area dimensions, finishings, and aesthetic beauty in design.
CURRENT COMPETITION: 1. Previously-owned homes and apartments: Studies have determined that new homebuyers investigate previously owned homes as part of their purchase decisions. Existing homes in the Caguas area vary greatly in age and size. Prices range from $60,000 to over $1,000,000. The existing home market is not sufficiently large enough to absorb the entire home demand. 2. Owner-Built Homes (New Construction) A new homeowner may opt to build his/her own home instead of purchasing a home from a developer. Owner-built homes in Caguas range in price from approximately $50,000 to $400,000. There was no significant level of owner-built homes noticed in the immediate area surrounding the Ventanas al Valle proposed development site. 3. New Home Development & Construction The Caguas area is currently undergoing a substantial amount of new home construction. Single Family Dwellings The new single family home market consists of approximately 20 developments in this area, with an average sales price of $297,000 for an average interior size of 2,052 square feet ($144/sq. ft.). Of these homes, the 3 br./2ba. category averages $198,000 with an average size of 1,600 square feet ($123/sq. ft.). The new home market consists primarily of single family dwellings (SFD) and apartments. Walk-up apartments comprises approximately 38% of the new home sales market. (Based on the Luis Abreu Comparative Sales Data System.)
4 Walk-up Apartments There are presently eight (8) walk-up projects that will compete directly and indirectly with Ventanas al Valle, as well as another four proposed developments that are in the design and/or planning phase. A typical 3br./2ba. walk-up apartments in the Caguas market region (which have been detailed in the Current Competition section) have an average sales price/price point of $147,000 with an average size of 1,300 square feet. Penthouse units in these developments average a sales price of $179,000 with and an average of 1,930 square feet.
CAGUAS AREA COMPETITION BY DEVELOPMENT: This Current Competition section is comprised of new construction residential walk-up properties in the Caguas market region.
1. Paseo las Catalinas 3/2, 923 sq. ft., $109,900, 103 units, RG Mortgage, $106 sq ft
Paseo las Catalinas is located in Caguas, approximately 10 minutes from highway 52. According to the â€•Luis Abreu Sales Comparable Reportâ€–, Paseo las Catalinas has an average sales price of $ 108,920. The project seems to have sold well. Their sales office stated that there are 10 units left for sale, as of May 15, 2003. We do not consider this walk-up development to be direct competition with Ventanas al Valle as it is approaching is final sellout stage and is not going to have any further development phases.
Vistas del Valle- 3/2.5, 1,375 sq. ft., $144,000, 80 units, RG Mortgage, $104 sq. ft.
Vistas del Valle is located in Caguas at the top of Highway 7784, about 15 minutes off the expressway. This development is just completing its first phase of construction with two more phases beginning soon. This project will be a competitor of Ventanas al Valle. The layout of this project is 8 buildings with 10 apartments in each. The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Double door entrance to each unit Half bath located centrally in unit Master bathroom & closet design The following are design features that are not recommended: There is no foyer at the entrance of unit Balcony is too small to include an average size table and chairs (11‘ x 5‘6‘‘) Master bedroom is below minimum recommended size (14‘ x 11‘) Window placement in master bedroom does not allow for variation in furniture placement In penthouse units, the spiral staircase is in the living room and takes up too much circulation space
Valle Santa Cecilia2, 3,4/2, 1,200-2,405 sq. ft., $130,000-$217,000, 213 units, RG Mortgage, $105 sq. ft. for $130,000 unit
Valle Santa Cecilia is located in Caguas about 15 minutes from PR Highway #1. This development is just 2 minutes from PR #189, and from Ventanas al Valle. This project will be competitive with Ventanas al Valle because it offers a variety of prices and sizes that can meet the needs of a varied clientele. This development stands out from the crowd in its site design: the recreational facilities are centrally located inside the parking structure and include: a clubhouse, gazebos, an integrated swimming pool, kid‘s pool, and jacuzzi, children‘s play areas, half-basketball court, and volleyball court with viewing stands. Also, the parking facility includes almost 200 covered spaces (50%)—a unique feature to walk-up developments in this market region. 3 bedroom unit (1,472 sq ft): The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Excellent and efficient circulation within unit Semi-enclosed foyer with front hall closet Master bedroom layout: good positioning of closet and bathroom (12‘6‘‘ x 13‘6‘‘) Centralized plumbing Bathrooms separate sink area from toilet/bath area Informal eating area—breakfast counter in kitchen Kitchen size with pantry: 8‘ x 16‘ The following are design features that are not recommended: Guest bathroom is too far into private/informal space Laundry room is too small Windows in master bedroom do not allow for different furniture layout
Valle Santa Cecilia—continued 3 bedroom Penthouse unit (2,016 sq ft): Same exact design observations as standard 3 bedroom unit except: The following are design features that are not recommended: The spiral staircase up to the ―loft area‖ above the master bedroom is inappropriately placed as well as is too small (2‘ 6‘‘). 2 bedroom unit (1,213 sq ft): The following design features we found to be of interest and value: design has a larger master bedroom, larger walk-in, great circulation laundry/pantry is combined—very practical, good use of space this unit we understand to be sold out 2 bedroom Penthouse unit 1,756 sq ft): This unit is a strong marketing statement: impressive design elements and architecture The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Very large family room on second level of this unit Full bathroom on second level Beautiful views from second level down onto first level Private and enclosed terrace on roof The following are design features that are not recommended: The spiral staircase up to the ―loft area‖ above the master bedroom is inappropriately placed as well as is too small (2‘ 6‘‘). (Same situation as the 3 bedroom Penthouse) 4 bedroom unit (1,756 sq ft.): The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Nicely enclosed foyer Living room/dining room semi-separate (with narrow pillars) with good distribution Laundry/pantry is combined—very practical, good use of space Kitchen size (11‘ x 9‘) with informal breakfast area All bedroom sizes are large and comfortable compared to others in this market All of the plumbing is located centrally (reduces construction costs) Large walk-in closet in the master (11‘ x 5‘ 6‘‘) The following are design features that are not recommended: These apartments have a balcony of a size that is not capable of accommodating a table and chairs—it is designed as a sitting balcony only (there is only room for a few chairs) Master bedroom space distribution is inefficient Guest bathroom positioning is too far into informal area of unit
4. Camino Del Bosque - 3/2, 1500 sq. ft., $179,000-$305,000, HF Mortgage, $119 sq. ft.
Caminos del Bosque is located in the Caguas area, on P.R. # 842, accessed via P.R. # 798 just off of highway # 1, approximately 5 minutes from the downtown area. This site is located on a steep hillside creating the need for massive retaining walls. This site is large and spread out across the front of this hill slope, offering great views of the valley below. This development incorporates single family units, duplex condos, and walk-up apartments all in the same project. The individual floor plan for the 152 walk-up units is well distributed in general, with relatively spacious rooms and good distribution. The recreational facilities include pools, a tennis court, club house with gymnasium, walking trails, outdoor exercise areas, and childrenâ€˜s play areas. This development has the potential to be direct competition with Ventanas al Valle. We have visited this site on two occasions and noticed an interesting change in the price structureâ€”a reduction from one visit to the next. First visit:
2nd floor center apartment: $199,000 1st floor center apartment: $219,000 Penthouse corner apartment: $305,000 (Sales data dated from June 2001)
2nd floor center apartment: $179,000 1st floor center apartment: $185,000 Penthouse corner apartment: $230,000 (Sales data dated from March 2003)
(approx. 10% decrease) (approx. 15% decrease) (approx. 25% decrease)
11 Important Note: This reveals that the prices are decreasing in Caminos del Bosque. This is a reduction in sales prices per unit of up to 25%. The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Elevator The integrated kitchen/family room with balcony access Master bedroom size: 14‘ x 12‘ Foyer separating front entrance from the rest of the unit Living room/ dining room size: 27‘ x 12‘ 6‘‘ The following are design features that are not recommended: Balcony size: 5‘ 6‘‘ x 13‘ 6‘‘—too small for table and chairs Guest bathroom placement—too far into private space Hall closets—should be switched with guest bath for more convenient placement Master bedroom windows render the space with limited furniture placement
Los Pinos - 2/2, 1,289 sq. ft., $135,000, Popular Mortgage, 100 units, $101 sq. ft.
Los Pinos is located in Caguas, less than one minute off of highway 52, on Detroit Street # 5. This development has both the advantage and disadvantage of being located directly off of the expressway. Of Los Pinos parking, 50% are covered spaces. The recreational facilities only include a pool, gazebo, and children‘s play area, which are located in front of the project facing the street—not very conducive to relaxation. This development is coming to the end of its sell-out and will not be considered as direct competition with Ventanas al Valle. The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Foyer at entrance to unit adds privacy The dining room/ living room/ kitchen has a unique and open design Convertible family room separate from main open space Guest bathroom location is very central Excellent circulation to unit design Formal and informal areas are well separated Balcony size: 19‘ 11‘‘ x 7‘ The following are design features that are not recommended: Two separate closets in different areas of the master bedroom Windows in the living room do not promote ideal utilization of space
Vista Real II - 3/2, 1000 sq. ft., $113,990-$125,990, RG Mortgage, approx. $114 sq. ft.
The Vista Real walk-up development is located on P.R. # 784 in Caguas, approximately 5 minutes from Highway 52. There are 144 units at Vista Real II. These units are considerably smaller than the proposed size of the Ventanas al Valle floor plan. The site at Vista Real II is surrounded by a large wall, circulation is long and circuitous. The recreational facilities here are centrally located within the complex and include pools and jacuzzi, club house, gymnasium, ½ basketball court, and children‘s play areas. We do not believe that Vista Real II is going to be direct competition with Ventanas al Valle. AXYON has not observed in this project any positive design recommendations, however we would note that for a unit of 1000 square feet there should be no more that 2 bedrooms. As is, this unit‘s room dimensions are too small for a comfortable living space: Poor design Master bedroom: 10‘ x 13‘ Secondary bedrooms: 10‘ x 10‘ Kitchen: 8‘ x 8‘ 6‘‘
Paseo Gales- 3/2, 1,575 sq. ft., $180,000, BBVA, approx. $114 sq. ft.
Paseo Gales is located on PR # 9189, approximately 5 minutes from Highway 30 in Caguas. This development has 88 units of 2/3 stories each. These units range in size from 1,575 to 2,675 square feet. Paseo Gales is utilizing a new advanced construction system (as part of the construction of the parking structure) called ―Plas Blau‖—a foam molding system which offers the intelligent benefits of: 1) saving construction time 2) reducing concrete costs 3) reducing wood (molding) costs This system is also being used on the construction of the roofs at the Vista Hatillo home development. The following design features we found to be of interest and value: A very large living room/ dining room area (13‘ 6‘‘ x 28‘ 8‘‘) A functional and efficient use of space under the stairs for storage A half-bath located centrally to the kitchen, dining room, and living room Master bedroom size is larger than the standard in this market (13‘ 6‘‘ x 16‘) Large covered terrace in Penthouse units ( 21‘ 6‘‘ x 17‘ 6‘‘) The following are design features that are not recommended: The balcony off of the kitchen is too small (under the 7 ft. suggested minimum) The stairway to the second level leads to an unattractive landing area The master bedroom is poorly configured as far as circulation and furniture placement options The second and third bedrooms are too small (10‘ x 10‘)
Los Prados- 3/2, 1,463 sq. ft., $166,000-207,000, HF Mortgage, approx. $125 sq.ft.
Los Prados is located in Caguas on PR # 156, exit # 19 towards Aguas Buenas from Highway 52. The development consists of 150 walk-up units of 2 levels each. The façades and architecture are impressive and the 1,463 square feet is well distributed. The recreational facilities are centrally located at the front entrance and include a full basketball court, two tennis courts, a large and elegant pool and jacuzzi, clubhouse, and children‘s play areas. The following design features we found to be of interest and value: Integrated kitchen and family room Guest bathroom—excellent positioning within unit Luxury-size master walk-in closet (7‘ x 9‘) Excellent master bedroom circulation Los Prados Penthouse units: Huge roof-top terrace Full bathroom on terrace level Kitchenette on terrace level The following are design features that are not recommended: Penthouse terrace level family room—poor distribution The living room/dining room circulation is poor
HIGHLIGHTED DEVELOPMENTS: ADDED VALUE DESIGN FEATURES: In order for AXYON to develop a comprehensive set of design recommendations, we determined it to be essential to also explore developments outside the immediate Caguas area. The following developments have been included in this study in order to provide examples of design elements that AXYON has determined to be unique and contribute added value. We suggest that particular design aspect examples drawn from these projects should be considered in the design process of the development of Ventanas al Valle. PASEO DEL ROCÍO EL ENSUEÑO DE MONTE SOL BRISAS DEL PARQUE ESCORIAL THE RESIDENCES AT PARQUE ESCORIAL THE COURTYARD VEREDA DE LA REINA LOS ALTOS DEL ESCORIAL CAMINOS VERDES PASEO DE LOS CUMBRES
Paseo del Rocío: Trujillo Alto - 3/2, 1,290 sq. ft., $180,000.
Interesting and value added design elements: Creative landscaping around clusters and parking facilities Façade movement and color differentiation Stained wood for all closet doors Tiled bathroom walls—with separate designs in guest and master Shower curtain-rod guard Protected security balcony on garden level apartments Addition of gymnasium to recreational facilities
El Ensue単o de Monte Sol: Fajardo - 3/2, 1,198 sq. ft., $135,000. Interesting and value added design elements: Individual covered parking spaces which could be enclosed to facilitate a fully secure and private parking area Unique to this development are the ground floor commercial studio units which can be utilized as a separate and private living space, a home office, art studio, storage, etc.,. Note: AXYON studies reveal that in this $35,000 - $100,000 income range, 38% of the market have home offices and/or work from home. A unit that can be accessed separately from the apartment is seen as a great benefit, and offers added value to any resident with the need for extra space.
Brisas del Parque Escorial: Parque Escorial - 3/2, Aprox. 1,400 sq. ft., $148,000.
Interesting and value added design elements: Access to water spigots directly in front of parking spaces, allowing for easy car washingâ€”an activity that the majority of this market prefers to do at home. Safety tiles (ridged edge or bull-nose edge) on all stairways, internal and external. An added value safety feature. Note: Interior stairways should be larger than the standard 3 foot-wide.
The Residences: Parque Escorial - 3/2.5, 1,600 sq. ft., $206,000.
Interesting and value added design elements: Streetscaping identifies building entrances and circulation areas The recreational facilities are featured right at the entrance of the development Double doors as the entrance to each unit—adds a luxurious feel Large kitchen size (11‘ 6‘‘ x 15‘) Half bathroom on first floor—very important
The Courtyard: Caguas, 2500+ sq. ft., $310,000 (Sold out in 2001)
Interesting and value added design elements: The veranda is a nice alternative to a balcony Large and functional ‗multi-purpose‘ space Landing at the top of the interior stairs offers a great view down on first level Laundry area located upstairs, closer to the bedrooms Master bedroom circulation is excellent—very well thought out design Double doors to the master bedroom and balconies are quite elegant The master bedroom closet/bathroom/vanity area design is unique to this market
Vereda de la Reina: Toa Alta, 1,293 Sqft., $120,000
Interesting and value added design elements: Convertible family room/ fourth bedroom is very practical Double access to the balcony from both the kitchen as well as the living room is a unique feature to this market of walk-up apartmentsâ€”allowing for more efficient circulation as well as greater kitchen ventilation. The balcony at Veredas de la Reina is 7 feet wide, allowing for a regular size table and chairs to fit comfortably.
Los Altos del Escorial: Parque Escorial 1,740, sq.ft. $186,000. Interesting and value added design elements: This unit has an ideal kitchen size (11‘ 6‘‘ x 14‘ 9‘‘)
Caminos Verdes: Trujillo Alto, 1,500â€”1,700 sq. ft., $179,000--$230,000
Interesting and value added design elements: Blue tinted windows â€“ modern look Large Penthouse terrace Fully enclosed family room with bathroom facilities Gym with weight room in recreational facilities
(STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, & THREATS)
Positive internal forces that affect a developer can control
The site for Ventanas al Valle is excellentâ€”within minutes of downtown Caguas as well as the San Juan metropolitan area. Traffic on State Road 189 is not congested and the immediate surrounding area is relatively undeveloped. The site itself has the advantage of being situated on top of a hill, which allows for panoramic views and unobstructed air flow. This site is located directly between the two thriving commercial centers of Caguas and Gurabo, enabling the residents of Ventanas al Valle to easily access quality schools, hospitals, banks, restaurants, shopping, and a variety of recreational activities. The surrounding community is also a great benefit to this future development as there is an existing high-priced home community directly next to this site.
B. Developer Experience: The developer of this project, Desarrollo Urbano Corp., has a history of successful developments in Puerto Rico. Desarrollo Urbano Corp. has developed both residential and commercial properties since 1996, including walk-up apartments, luxury villas, and retail spaces.
C. Environment: The physical environment that this site occupies is beautiful. Currently its hilly pasture lands are full of trees and it benefits from consistent mountain breezes. The site abuts to
35 a protected natural preserve and tree farm/nursery, which will not only act as a bufferzone against development in the immediate site area, but also will be a major sales benefit to potential Ventanas clients as their future community would be protected from encroaching development. A good portion of time spent by the residents of this community will be in hectic urban settings such as the busy metropolitan areas, congested highways, and so forth. Therefore, we see great opportunity for both sales benefits as well as lifestyle advantages if this community were to diligently preserve as much of the natural existing beauty as possible in the course of development. Some examples of how to do this may include: the creation of walking/jogging/bicycling trails through wooded areas, utilizing/transplanting the existing foliage to create more privacy for the community as a whole, and for each cluster of buildings, the construction or preservation of ponds/reservoirs/streams by managing rainwater drainage, etc.
D. Infrastructure: The site for Ventanas al Valle is situated right of off State Road 189, which allows easy access to established public utilities such as electricity, water, and telephone lines.
E. Creation of a Versatile Community/Recreation Center: A versatile community building or â€—town hallâ€˜, which could be used for community gatherings, parties, home-owners association meetings, day-care facilities, etc, would add real value to the village of walk-ups and would allow the residents to develop their own initiatives for the use of the space. This may serve well as a day-care center monitored and employed by community participants, as more and more families depend on multiple incomes.
Negative internal forces that affect the project
A. Sloping nature of construction site: Construction on the Ventanas al Valle site could very well be a challenge. The site is sloped and will require a substantial amount of land movement.
B. Building and Cluster layout: Based on the preliminary site plans, the buildings appear to be directly next to one another and also too densely packed. Repositioning some parking areas would allow for this off-set alignment of buildings, thus adding a more pleasing feeling and appearance for the residents of the community.
C. Main entrance to the Ventanas al Valle community: The main entrance needs to be buffered from the existing highway The use of lush landscaping, fountains, decorative walls with the community name and logo, and
36 other features would establish a barrier to entry from the street before encountering the gates and guardhouse, expressing added security and privacy.
D. Location of recreational facilities: The placement of the recreational facilities is crucial to a development‘s sales and is very important to the resident‘s perception of quality. The ideal placement of these facilities in Ventanas al Valle should be centralized and near the main entrance.
E. “Sea of Parking”: In order to avoid a large and unattractive parking facility, an ‗off-set‘ design strategy could be implemented. By off-setting the buildings, the parking could follow, zigzagging or the parking around the buildings (some parking in front and some behind), creating a less obtrusive, smaller grouping of parked cars per area.
Positive external forces
A. High loan-to-value ratios:
Currently, the economic conditions are dictating high loan-to-value ratios. Current residential mortgage loans conventionally have a LTV of 95%--%100 The amount a lender is willing to lend against collateral is extraordinary at this time. This enables buyers a greater amount of incentive and purchasing power, and thus enabling developers a greater ability to sell units.
B. Low interest rates: Real estate is benefiting from the lowest interest rates in years. This makes home purchasing extremely affordable.
C. Market growth:
The Caguas and Gurabo market is growing very quickly. This will further add to the demand for housing. The Caguas metropolitan area is the third largest in Puerto Rico, with an estimated population of 317,800. The area has strong economic ties with the neighboring urban centers of Bayamon and San Juan.
Negative external forces
A. Future Competing Development in the Caguas Area:
There is strong and imminent potential for growth in the Caguas market. There are four projects we have become aware of in this market region which are in the design and/or planning stages of the development process.
B. Increasing interest rates:
The homebuilding industry in the Caguas area has experienced healthy growth in recent years, mostly as a result of consistent economic growth and low interest rates of about 7 percent. An increase in interest rates will make home purchases more difficult. With an interest rate of 5.75% on a home purchase of $180,000, the needed monthly income for this type of purchase would be approximately $3,450. An increase in this percentage, for example to 9% on the same purchase, would effectively require an income of $5,400 monthly. This could quite easily reduce the number of qualifying home buyers.
C. Tighter credit restrictions: Current loan to value levels are at historic records. If credit begins to tighten, prospective clients will have to produce larger down payments. This will make the acquisition of new homes more difficult.
D. Neighboring commercial activity: Directly across State Road 189 from this site exists a commercial cinder-block factory. This could potentially create disturbances that would affect the Ventanas al Valle community such as increased traffic due to further development in this area, or noise pollution from factory activities and large trucks.
DESIGN CRITERIA: Each of the aforementioned walk-up developments have been evaluated by using a comprehensive design system. The focus of our analysis is to submit recommendations based on unique design aspects that we have identified as value added design characteristics.
Community/Site Design: Aesthetics, Quality, and Distribution 1. Streetscapes: logic, flow/movement, terrain, circulation, lighting The design aspects that characterize a community‘s streetscape are critical in understanding how the community functions on a macro-level. Examples include: the flow of both automobile and pedestrian traffic, elements that highlight the organizational layout of the individual buildings, utilization of terrain aspects to increase views. How does the community feel to the resident and to the guest? 2. Parking facilities: access, arrangement, protection, spacing, lighting, distance This aspect is a very important design feature to the Puerto Rican market. How do the residents access their autos? Is it convenient? Examples of this are: the arrangement of the spaces (side-by-side vs. front-to-back), covered parking, access to water for car washing, parking-space size, utilization of parking area lighting, and distance from parking-space to residence. 3.
Landscaping: beauty, privacy, comfort Landscaping integrates nature into the community setting, and provides the residents with an aesthetic value. The placement of green areas, trees, vegetation, fountains, cobblestone pathways, hills and burms, ponds, and gardens not only offer the residents and guests a welcome retreat from the sometimes hectic city-life and provide added privacy and beautification. Are there areas for personal gardens or private outside spaces?
Views and vistas: airflow/ventilation, light flow, views How are the buildings positioned? In order to capture the most ideal views, airflows, and natural light, the building placement must be well thought out in the design phase of the development. A very important part of this process is understanding wind direction as well as the positioning of the sun, in reference to the bedroom windows, patios, decks, and garden areas.
Density: open spaces, garden areas, building placement, # of units per building The amount of apartments in each building or cluster has a dramatic effect on the resident‘s perspective of value of their investment. Is there a comfortable amount of space between neighbors‘ front doors? What do they see out their windows—their neighbors‘ windows or their beautiful recreational facilities? Is the design layout of the buildings space-efficient?
Exterior Design of Buildings: Aesthetics, Quality, and Distribution
Architecture: appearance, style, size, color scheme, façade The design of the individual buildings is another aspect AXYON investigates vis-à-vis the perceived value for the client. Is there a unique architectural element that sets the building design apart from the ordinary? What style are they intended to represent—Spanish, Caribbean, Mediterranean, etc. Is the color-scheme utilized in a way that enhances the architectural design? What does the exterior façade project— sophistication, attention to detail, unique design, and incorporation of the surrounding environment?
Ease of access: stair layout, elevator, amount of floors, floor layout, parking How does the client approach their residence? How are the stairs laid out, and how many stairs are there, before each landing? How wide are the stairways, and are there safety tiles and rails? Is there handicapped access to all apartments, some, or none? From the parking facilities, what is the walking distance to each apartment or level? Are there elevators, and if so, how are they incorporated into the design? How many apartments are on each floor or level—how are the apartments situated in reference to each other?
Security: doors & windows, intercom systems, alarm systems, entrances to buildings and apartments, lighting, main community entrance Security is another very important design aspect which is considered critical to the new home market in the Caguas region. How secure does the homeowner perceive their home to be? Have the developers considered security features such as controlled access, both at the main gate as well as for each unit—intercom systems, porticos as a barrier of entry to buildings, and technological infrastructure for individual security systems.
Interior Design of Apartments: Aesthetics, Quality, and Distribution 1. Efficiency: circulation, use of interior space Does the design take into account movement paths which facilitate the greatest amount of ―utilizable space‖? Is the floor plan based on traditional or modern design concepts i.e. small or large size kitchen, family-room, and dining-room? How have windows, mirrors, and walls been used to create the effects of more space or more privacy? Where are the bathrooms placed? Are the inside stairways positioned for access or privacy? How are landings on stairways used? 2. Space: layout of formal/casual areas, comfort, utility Is the internal layout of the apartment designed for maximum utility? How has the design incorporated the use of guest space versus private space? What specific space trade-offs is the developer willing to make? 3. End-used needs: technology, ergonomics, functionality Are the basic needs of the end-user accounted for in the apartment design, i.e. the amount of power outlets, cable TV, internet, telephone connections, air conditioning hook-ups, etc.,. Is the apartment an ―intelli-home‖?
RECOMMENDATIONS: SIGNIFICANT DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS These chosen aspects of design we have recognized as leading-edge, and will enable Ventanas al Valle to achieve the quickest and most profitable sell-out through a focused strategy of product differentiation. The need to differentiate one‘s product from that of the masses cannot be over-emphasized. The current market environment in the Caguas region is seeing a steady increase in community development which will have the effect of intensifying competition in this market. Product differentiation, through unique, forwardthinking design will allow Ventanas al Valle to become a distinctive community, and in turn will greatly surpass the market acceptance of its competitors. Note: These design recommendation elements are not in order of importance, however, are categorized as Community, Exterior, and Interior.
Community Design Recommendations: 1. Community Facilities and Amenities: The community recreational facilities should have multiple access points and be centrally clustered as a unified and enclosed environment, which offers a more impressive presentation. They should be located at or near the front of the development for the reasons of higher profile and greater visibility, which are very important for the sales process. Having these facilities at or near the front entrance will also enable the security personnel to maintain watch over the facilities, adding greater value to their services and a more secure environment for children and guests. The facilities should include (space permitting) a uniquely designed swimming pool integrated with a jacuzzi and ―kiddy pool‖, one or more tennis courts, a full basketball court, a clubhouse, gymnasium, gazebos, children‘s play areas, and some form of exercise path for walking/jogging (utilizing the natural environment as an added benefit). In addition to these standard recreational amenities we suggest the construction of a ―community center‖/multi-purpose facility that could be used as a meeting place, conference center, day care facility, and a variety of other functions. Also, a volleyball court like we have seen in the competing Valle Santa Cecilia could add value to this area. 2. Community Front Entrance: “Curb Appeal” The front entrance of the community is incredibly important to the image of any development Ventanas al Valle should invest a considerable amount in the development of this frontage. This area will also act as a buffer between the residents and the road. This will provide the added value of security and aesthetic beauty. The utilization of elements such as shaped walls, green areas, gardens, fountains, tropical and native trees (such as palms and flamboyans), and an inset guard house will contribute to these added value characteristics, promoting Ventanas al Valle as a resort style community. 3. Distribution/ Density of Buildings: Based on our analysis we have determined that off-setting the buildings in each cluster has the effect of making each building more individual and unique. Also, by arranging the buildings in this manner, the parking facilities can be broken up into more aesthetically pleasing groupings, thus eliminating the undesirable ―sea of parking‖ that results from straight-line building development.
41 4. Parking Facilities: In addition to the previous recommendation, these facilities should offer at least one covered parking space to each unit, perhaps at an additional cost. Our research has shown that the walkup market has a high preference to covered parking—if available, buyers usually would pay a premium for this feature, even if they are not located in direct proximity to one‘s unit. . 5. Security Measures: Security is the principal concern of clients in the walk-up market. The market standard is the use of controlled access gates and a manned guard house. Our recommendation is not only to ensure 24 hour security personnel, making rounds, but we suggest that for each cluster of units, individual entrance gates be implemented within the community. This will offer a greater level of security for each resident. In addition to/ or in place of these feature, we recommend that each building be equipped with an intercom system similar to those in condominiums.
Exterior Design Recommendations: 1. Architectural Design of Buildings: In order to significantly set this development apart from its competition—both single family homes and apartments, the exterior architectural design is of extreme importance. Our research has shown that there are specific design elements that distinguish building design: 1) Façade movement: (breaking up the straight-line continuity) 2) Balcony aspects: creating different views by way of adding corner balconies within the façade movement 3) Window treatments such as overhangs and window frames can considerably add style and function to the façade 2. Color-scheme: The use of different colors to accent building features or to differentiate buildings or clusters can be very effective in creating a unique feel to a development. Once again, an excellent example of the utilization of a distinctive color-scheme is exhibited in the Courtyard development. By varying the colors of the building façade, one can cultivate a specific identity to the development. This color variation does not only apply to paint, but includes roofing materials, window tints (blue tinted windows such as those in the photos of Caminos Verdes, add a modern and unique look), landscaping, and use of wood, etc. 3. Access: From parking and amount of levels There should be a maximum of two levels from the parking facilities to the each individual unit entrance, enabling relatively easy access for the residents. 4. Front door: The entrance to each unit is another very important feature that affects the buyer‘s perceived value. The front door is the threshold to ones living space and speaks to what should be expected of the interior, just as the front entrance to the community does. The use of double doors provides a more elegant entranceway, at a relatively low cost in the development process. Also, doors with beveled/molded features, elegant door-handles, knockers, or windows provide added value to this very important element of the unit‘s exterior.
Interior Design Recommendations: 1. Distribution of Space: The three major issues regarding interior distribution of space are: 1) Area of the master bedroom 2) Area of the living room/dining room space 3) Area of the kitchen (and family room space) AXYON has concluded from our research during this study that these spaces are of utmost importance when considering the distribution of available square feet in the Ventanas al Valle units. The following measurements are both recommended minimum size and ideal size for these areas: MINIMUM SQUARE FOOTAGE Master bedroom: 14‘ x 12‘ Living room/dining room: 21‘ x 12‘ Kitchen: 11‘ x 12‘ Balcony/ terrace: 10‘ x 6‘ IDEAL/ RECOMMENDED SQUARE FOOTAGE Master bedroom: 16‘ x 13‘ Living room/dining room: 24‘ x 14‘ Kitchen: 12‘ x 15‘ Balcony/ terrace: 14‘ x 7‘
2. Reception area at front door: The foyer or reception area just inside the front door is a critical interior space. It is important that residents can greet visitors without exposing their entire home. It would be ideal if this area were large enough to accommodate a mirror and table. 3. Half bathroom with centralized location: It is crucial that the 2nd bathroom be convenient for guests to access. (while not having to venture into the private, bedroom area of the house) A half-bath can easily fit in the same space as a laundry area, pantry, or closet, and can add great value to the unit‘s efficiency and livability. 4. Multiple Accesses to Balconies: During our research we have encountered only one development (Veredas de la Reina) that offers access to the balcony from both the kitchen and family room. This is a very useful feature that allows greater convenience and circulation throughout the most frequently used areas of the apartment. 5. Window placement in rooms: The idea of window placement involves two major concepts: 1) Positioning for views, ventilation, and light for each room 2) Positioning for furniture
43 It is very important to position the windows in a manner so as to take advantage of views, crossventilation aspects, and lighting. However, what is more important is the positioning of windows in a way that offers the end-user the most options for their interior arrangement of furniture. This perspective should not be overlooked. As we have observed, many poor designs don‘t allow for multiple options for placing beds, entertainment centers, and other key items. For example, the most likely placement for the bed in the master bedroom is against a wall that does not have a window. 6. Intelligent home systems: The up-scale home market is currently using the ―Intelli-home‖ system. The intelli-system joins together all rooms in the residence by wiring them specifically for music, audio/video, internet and camera/intercom. This type of system would greatly differentiate Ventanas al Valle from the competition and offer the market an up-to-the-minute technologically advanced home, unique to the market. 7. 12 x 12 or 18 x 18 ceramic tiles: The standard floor covering in apartments is still 12‘ x 12‘ ceramic Italian tile. However, in more luxurious residences (usually high-end single family homes), 18‘ x 18‘ tiles are used. The use of large tiles such as these would increase both the real and perceived value of the development. 8. Laundry location: There seems to be a split between laundry locations—either close to the kitchen or in the private/bedroom space of the unit. We have determined that either area is satisfactory for this purpose. However it should be noted that the best location for this area should not compromise the kitchen size.