Anchorage condo developer goes for building green

April 14, 2010 

A different sort of condo development is germinating this spring in Anchorage that aims to be ultra-modern and earth-friendly.

A pioneer of the new condo aesthetic is the Anchorage-based Lumen Group, which plans this year to build mod-looking town houses, designed for efficient use of energy, water and land, in south, east and north Anchorage.

Lumen's projects incorporate rooftop terraces, ultra-efficient heating furnaces and windows, Ikea storage systems and open-floor plans. One complex is mostly built -- Aurora Square in East Anchorage. Construction on Lumen's two others projects could begin this summer, said co-developer John McGrew of Anchorage.

Lumen's condos are pricier than the norm for Anchorage, but McGrew says he is getting a positive reception from local buyers -- all units built so far at Aurora Square have been purchased and Lumen is holding reservations for future units at Aurora and at its two other Anchorage projects.

BUILDING UPTICK

Lumen began marketing its newest project this year -- Lumen Park, near the intersection of Lake Otis Parkway and Abbott Road -- at a moment when new home building in Anchorage is increasing slightly after a three-year slump.

"The market has definitely picked up," said Andre Spinelli, design and development manager for Spinell Homes. He rattled off roughly a dozen condo and single-family house subdivisions in Anchorage that will see new construction this summer.

But it's rare to find projects that look similar to Lumen's -- boxy shapes, floor-to-ceiling windows and metal siding -- unless they are luxury homes. A handful of modern-looking condo complexes can be found in pockets of downtown, noted Lumen architect Ron Batemen.

He said Lumen's design principles might not suit everyone but that's OK. "It's not a moral imperative. It is the way we like to do it," he said.

"A lot of what has been built in this town did not have an architect involved. I think it makes all the difference in the world," LeGrew added.

HIGHER PRICES

Lumen's condos aren't built for millionaires but they aren't cheap.

Pricing for the Lumen Park condos starts at $325,000 for a two-bedroom unit and $425,000 for a three-bedroom unit. Living space ranges from 1,380 to 2,170 square feet. Pricing for Lumen's third project -- The Terraces on Government Hill -- starts at $369,000, and the living space is 1,750 square feet.

Local housing industry watchers said this week that Lumen's pricing puts it near the top of the range for local condo pricing. The average sales price for an Anchorage condo in the last three months was about $185,000, said Mark Korting, regional director for Re/Max Properties Inc.

"At the top of any price range, demand is going to be more limited," Korting said.

He also questioned how many local buyers will be willing to pay a higher price for "green" amenities.

John Carman, of Homestate Mortgage, said the Lumen condos seem to fit well with a certain niche of home buyer: double income, no children.

The focus on rooftop terraces and eco-design is pretty unique for Anchorage too, Carman said.

"It's kind of nice to see our (housing) market maturing into that," he said.

WHO BUYS?

The 7-acre Lumen Park project includes affordable rental housing for seniors that is being supported by a grant from the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and low-income tax credits. Rents in the senior housing complex -- two, three-story buildings with 20 apartments apiece -- would range from $400 to $900 per month.

The rest of the Lumen Park development is targeted to attract young professionals and downsizing baby boomers and retirees.

Many of the 60 townhouse-style condos are designed to include a home office or mother-in-law apartment. The units are grouped around a central walking path that leads to a rather large green space inside the development. The condo unit owners would have foot access to trails in the Ruth Arcand Park and nearby shopping centers, according to Lumen.

Six of the eight units in Lumen Park planned for construction this summer have already been reserved.

At The Terraces, the Lumen project on Government Hill, 11 of the 12 units have already been reserved, according to Lumen.


Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.


Lumen’s green design

• 95-percent-efficient heating furnaces, eligible for federal energy rebates

• Zero storm water drainage (emergency drainage features are included)

• Recycled counter tops

• Natural lighting through south-facing windows

• Private outdoor space on rooftop terraces instead of a lawn

• Triple-paned windows

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