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Echo Park Developer Shares Secrets on How to Gentrify Apartments for Millennials

There's definitely a pattern to the kind of rapid transformation that's happened over the past few years in hot Los Angeles neighborhoods like Echo Park and Highland Park—neighborhoods that became hip because they were once affordable and are now, due to said hipness, becoming dramatically less and less so. One component of that whole gentrification process involves the conversion of regular old apartment buildings in these neighborhoods into something more hipster-friendly—the formula seems to be, as Bloomberg succinctly puts it, to "buy neglected apartment buildings in promising neighborhoods, renovate, raise rents, and fill them with young professionals." But for one firm, an LA- and Seattle-based development company called Timberlane Partners, there's another crucial step: add those special touches, those things that set your apartment building out from the crowd. Here are some of their tips on how to play to "the perceived whims of millennial tenants."

—Timberlane scopes out buildings that have studio and one-bedroom units because, in their experience, young renters value being close to cool things (bars, eateries) over a lot of space. Apartments are "more of a place to crash."

—But that doesn't mean Millennials don't want to hang out in their complex. Timberlane sometimes adds communal roof decks, fire pits, and similar spaces to their buildings so tenants don't feel cooped up in those little apartments. Millennials looove this shit and pay for it: "Such touches allow Timberlane to raise rents in the buildings it buys, usually by 15 percent to 20 percent." Cha-ching!

—Got brick walls? Expose 'em. Got hardwood floors? Refinish them and banish any thoughts of carpeting. Also, Millennials want those healthy-lifestyle amenities. If there's no gym and rock-climbing wall, maybe say goodbye to five apartments to make space for those features, as Timberlane did at one of their properties.

—Bike space: yes; parking: whatever. Millennials walk. "[Millennials] want to drop off their car on a Friday and not see it again until Monday," says Dave Enslow, one of the company's cofounders.

—Millennials can't resist a historically charming building, apparently. At a 1930s-era Echo Park property recently purchased by Timberlane —and described as being minutes away from the "nest of hipster cafes and places to buy rare cheese and handmade clothes" that is Silver Lake—the plan to turn this building into a Millennial magnet is to take down security fencing, put terra cotta tiles on the roof again, and fix up the original windows. "The goal is for this to look like a Moroccan boutique hotel," says John Chaffetz, the other cofounder of Timberlane.