Living behind a locked gate gives condo dwellers a feeling of security and privacy, developers say.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The gated community, a concept that's taken off in big city and Sun Belt areas around the country, is slowly finding a place in Mahoning Valley neighborhoods.
One area condominium developer operates several gated complexes around the area and another is set to build his first one this year.
Ron Anderson, president of Universal Development in Liberty, said his company built its first gated condominium complex in Niles 10 years ago and now builds all his condo developments behind wrought iron security gates.
"We have a very good handle on what our customers want," he said. "They're looking for the kind of privacy that you can't get on a public street today."
Universal Development has gated condominium neighborhoods in Austintown, Canfield, Poland, Hermitage and New Castle and is building a new complex in New Sewickley, Pa. near Pittsburgh. The company also has four gated developments in Columbus.
"It's our standard," Anderson said. "It's what we do."
Surveying demand: Consumer demand is also fueling plans by Newton Square Co. in Canfield to add a security gate to its next condominium development, The Crossings, set for construction later this year on Belmont Avenue in Liberty Township.
Byron Vogel, northeast regional director for Newton Square, said the company's customer profiles and surveys indicated a growing interest in the gated concept.
"I think it started in the Sun Belt areas -- places like Florida and Arizona where the gated communities have become very common," Vogel said. "People have gotten used to seeing them when they're on vacation, and now they're starting to request them here at home."
Newton Square has three condominium communities in Canfield, and one each in Poland, Salem, Columbiana and Howland. None is gated.
Mike Wilson, executive director of the Homebuilders Association of Mahoning Valley, said he doesn't know of any gated single-family home community in the area and hasn't heard of any such plans in the works. He said the gated concept is very popular for single family developments in Columbus and some other sections of Ohio.
New construction: Most of the Valley's new home construction is going on in the suburbs, Wilson said, where homeowners are less worried about security issues than they would be if they were building in the inner city.
Though Youngstown and Warren both have new home construction under way in their inner cities, he said, those new homes have been built in old neighborhoods instead of being grouped in developments.
Wilson doesn't believe any local builder would find it necessary to add a gate to a single-family development unless the homes in the complex were well above the value of others in the neighborhood. In that case, the gate would provide security and would set apart the development to help preserve higher home values, he explained.
How it works: Anderson said Universal Development uses a wrought iron entry gate at the street outside all its condominium developments. Residents get specially designed, two-button garage door openers -- one button activates the entry gates, the other opens their garage. Gates are generally kept open by day and closed at dusk.
Visitors or delivery people can contact the condominium owner from a control panel at the outside gate. Residents' telephones are equipped to activate the gate to allow a visitor to enter. Provisions are made to allow quick entry to police, fire and rescue workers, and the gate has a battery backup so that residents can't be locked in or out because of a power outage.
Anderson said the construction costs for the security gates is high, but his company doesn't charge residents for the amenity. "We just absorb the cost," he said. "We think of it as part of the quality of life we want to offer our customers."
Security: He said about 50 percent of the residents in his developments are single people, and security is one of their biggest reasons for choosing the gated complex. They also enjoy walking for recreation and exercise, and the gate reduces traffic so they can stroll on the street.
Jeanne DiOrio, a sales manager at Universal's Clingan Crossing development in Poland, said the gate also encourages neighbors to get to know one another. "It's very, very private," she said, "and that fosters a sense of community. It makes everybody feel like more of a family."
Vogel said condominiums used to be popular mainly with a group known as the "active retired," but the demographics are changing to include many working professionals of every age who don't have time or don't want to bother with lawn work and other outside maintenance chores.
He said Newton Square has always done a lot of surveying of its customers to help keep up with changing tastes, but interest in the gated option started showing up recently. Newton Square also plans to absorb the cost of adding the security gate, he said, so that condominium costs at The Crossings will be similar to those at the company's other communities in the area.