In cities around North America, Baby Boomers are moving into urban centres for the amenities and to escape the hassles of home ownership in retirement.
And while you have to be careful not to exaggerate the magnitude of the migration, Saint John property developer Keith Brideau wants to capture a slice of that market with his new purchase of two heritage buildings on King St. in the city centre.
“We’re seeing [the Boomers] move back to the core,” says Brideau in an interview outside his new buildings. “People who never saw themselves living uptown are actually looking at it closely and moving into our properties. They realize they don’t need three- or four-thousand square-feet anymore. They don’t have any kids at home and they don’t want to deal with maintenance, the backyard and snow removal.
“They want to be able to enjoy themselves and have more time [for leisure activities]. They want to be able to travel and not worry about their property when they leave. They want to lock the door and have someone pick up their mail, which we can even do for them.”
Brideau’s Historica Developments has redeveloped several uptown buildings in the last few years, and Boomers account for about five per cent of the tenants in his 150 apartments, most of whom are young professionals like lawyers, doctors, and IT professionals.
He expects the number of Boomers to grow as more retire and says his new apartments will be a perfect fit for them. The five- and six-story buildings – which sit side-by-side on the city’s main street – will have an elevator, off-street parking, a mix of one-and two-bedroom units and a rooftop patio with “million-door views,” says Brideau.
The units – with the high ceilings, and exposed brick and old beams that people appreciate about the city’s heritage buildings – will cost between $1000-$2000, he says, which will save tenants money for enjoying life uptown.
“When you factor in all the costs of home ownership, you can live a good lifestyle uptown,” says Brideau. “People want the walkability, they want the social aspect. They want to hang out at the coffee shops. They want to go to the microbreweries. They want to have a few drinks and walk home at night.”
Brideau is redeveloping the city-centre buildings at such a brisk pace but he says the saturation point in the market is years away yet, thanks in part to the retiring Boomers.
“The peak boom will in the next five years, and we’re just starting to see that wave happen now,” he says. “We know that the larger volume of Baby Boomers are on their way and we’re seeing more and more of them listing and selling their homes recently and moving into our buildings like Park Place and Bustins that we just finished.
“They want a certain quality of product, a certain square footage. They want certain amenities like extra bathrooms and extra storage space. We’re now giving them what they’re looking for.”
Brideau expects the apartments to be ready in the next year or so. There will also still be commercial, restaurant and retail businesses on the lower and ground floors of the buildings.