The 408-unit Crossing at Cooley Station opened in 2020 on Williams Field Road with luxury amenities such as poolside ramadas, cyber café, indoor basketball, and racquetball court and a virtual yoga studio.
A year later, the 380-unit Soltra at San Tan Village opened and screamed extravagance with an onsite chef’s kitchen, a tiered pool with swim-up hospitality bar, resident lounge and bar, outdoor movie wall and a 2,000-square-foot skydeck lounge.
And when the 360-unit Aiya opens adjacent to Loop 202 later this fall, it promises even more tony offerings, like a community kitchen with espresso bar, craft beer on tap, 24-hour fitness studio with protein shake machine, lounge with ping pong and more.
For the past decade, all 4,000 apartment units that came online in Gilbert are categorized as high-end, earning the town the top spot in the country for luxury apartment new-builds, according to a recent StorageCafe study.
The nationwide storage space search website is part of Yardi Matrix, which develops and supports industry-leading investment and property management software for real estate companies.
The other two Arizona cities landing on the top 20 luxury apartment list are Chandler at second place with 99% and Scottsdale, fourth place with 98.5%. Mesa ranked No. 53 with 84% of all units built in the 10-year period considered luxury.
Overall, Chandler saw the addition of over 6,800 new units over the past decade, while Scottsdale added 8,600 apartments to the local inventory. Luxury apartments in Chandler and Scottsdale, averaging 970 and 983 square feet, respectively, are about 200 square feet bigger than their non-luxury counterparts and feature a host of extra amenities, the study said.
Overall, Arizona showed a tendency toward luxury living with Valley cities building almost exclusively high-end apartments over the past 10 years, according to the study’s author Maria Gatea.
The study analyzed 3.1 million apartment units built over 10 years, looking only at complexes with 50 and more units, according to Gatea. The ranking is based on a patented property-rating system by Yardi.
“We considered luxury properties that the property ranking system determines to be in the A+, A, A- and B+ categories, based on a series of factors, including unit size, architecture, quality of construction, finishing details, amenities, and more,” Gatea said in an email.
In addition to the lifestyle-centered amenities, the apartments in Gilbert provided more elbow room, having an average size of over 1,000 square feet, about 250 square feet larger than those in the non-luxury category.
“Gilbert is slowly becoming a hub for premier living,” Gatea said. “All these new apartment buildings come with resort-style pools and spas, manicured gardens and playgrounds, as well as more practical features like outside storage.”
Other high-end amenities include common lounge areas with gaming stations, outdoor seating areas with gas grills and fire pits, bicycle storage spaces and bicycle repair shops.
“Volleyball courts are also widespread in Gilbert – about 53% of the premier apartments built here over the past decade provide tenants with the opportunity to practice volleyball,” Gatea said.
“Pet-related conveniences are also becoming increasingly popular in Gilbert’s newest complexes, with pet washing and grooming rooms or bark parks providing pampering options for the residents’ four-legged friends.”
According to Gatea, what’s fueling the growth of these apartments is an employee-driven job market with companies such as Go Daddy Software, Banner Health and Deloitte doing business in town. The town’s population also grew during the decade from 210,000 in 2012 to about 270,000 now.
The study notes that people are remaining renters longer than before so their expectations of what their homes must offer have changed and developers are rushing to fulfill that.
“As renters continue to spend more time at home, developers should rethink what are considered standard amenities and implement new higher-impact alternatives,” said Doug Ressler, Business Intelligence manager at Yardi Matrix. “Concierge and rental services, work-from-anywhere amenities and local community support are at the top of the renters’ list of must-haves.
“Providing a co-working space that goes beyond the standard conference room will be increasingly appreciated now that 40% of workers plan to work from home at least one day a week this year. Rethinking these strategies provides an opportunity to both attract new residents and retain existing ones.”
Despite all the bells-and-whistles amenities these projects bring, residents in Gilbert are still reluctant to embrace them.
When multi-family projects have come forward for approval in recent years, residents generally have opposed them, citing concerns with an increase in traffic, noise, impact to property values, loss of the small-town feel and crime.
“As I drove here tonight I looked over at all of these apartments and I’m just flabbergasted,” said resident Jean Frakes at the most recent council meeting on June 28. “Because when we moved to our home you couldn’t build a two-story home because they didn’t want to take away from the beauty.
“What do we have now? Look at the apartments when you leave home tonight now this is because people have not spoken up.”
And, in June when a 19-year-old woman was fatally shot inside her Gilbert apartment, people on social media were quick to point their fingers at multi-family for her death with comments, including “Apartments bring crime!” “Keeping building these apartment complexes and watch what happens!” and “Apartments will be the downfall to the low crime in Gilbert.”
And several among this year’s crop of candidates running for town council are using the anti-apartment sentiment in their campaign platforms.
According to town planners, however, multifamily housing comprises about 11% of all types of residential development in Gilbert, compared with 48% in Scottsdale and 30% in Chandler. And of Gilbert’s total land use, 3% was zoned for multifamily development.
As Gilbert continues its trend of allowing developers to exclusively build these top-tiered residences, affordability comes into play. Rent at Aiya will be approximately $1,700 for a studio apartment.
Recent Arizona State University alumnus Garrett Glover, who’s running as a write-in candidate for council, said affordable housing is a big issue for him and many of his friends.
“Rent’s too damn high,” said Glover, who still lives in the family home. “We just financially can’t afford it right now. I want to fight for more affordable housing solutions so people who grew up in Gilbert, can stay in Gilbert instead of moving elsewhere in the country to find affordable housing.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development considers an individual in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area earning $49,500 a year as low income; very low income at $30,950 and extremely low income at $18,559 and all may qualify for rental help.
Gilbert doesn’t have any public housing units in town and it doesn’t offer Section 8 housing vouchers, which provide rent subsidies for qualified low-income families, provided that landlords accept them.
But, the Town says it’s doing its part to ensure people of all income levels can afford to live in Gilbert.
“Gilbert encourages a variety of housing types to meet the needs of all our residents,” spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison said. “This includes multi-family developments, single-family for rent neighborhoods and single-family homes of varying size on different lot sizes.”
All 100 units at Page Commons in the Heritage District are for those 55 and older renters with incomes between 30% and 60% of the area median income. Affordable units also are available at San Clemente at Power Ranch and The Reserve at Gilbert Town Center.
Because the 336-unit San Clemente participated in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, it must set aside a certain number of apartments for lower-income families. The Reserve at Gilbert Town Center also has set aside a certain number of affordable units.
The other two complexes with affordable units are San Miquel Apartments and The Groves Apartments in Mesa but near Gilbert, according to the Town.
Additionally, Gilbert currently has 18 homes purchased and rehabbed under the Permanent Affordable Rental Program, Harrison said.
In general, apartment construction in the country is on an upward trend, with 2021 being the peak year of new apartment supply – 417,000 new units entered the market last year, up 12% year-over-year, according to Gatea
The apartment development market has also been intensifying the amenities arms race with 86% of the new apartments delivered over the past decade across the country classified as luxury dwellings, she said.