Invasion of the Restless Boomers

What do you get when you mix bored boomers with hip twenty-somethings in cool new condo complexes? Comedy gold.

Today's Wall Street Journal has one of the funniest articles I've read in a long time ("Animal House Meets the Empty Nest").  Apparently a bunch of real estate developers have specifically been targeting twenty- and thirty-something professionals and trying to lure them into their urban condo complexes with cool amenities like video-game lounges, outdoor fire pits, rooftop hot tubs, movie theaters, and poolside bars. The article calls the developments a "throw-back to the sort of singles-oriented complexes that were popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s." Problem is, a bunch of aging boomers from the suburbs have decided they too want to live the hip life and are muscling in:

Ms. Lammel says that while the atmosphere at Viridian has been largely cordial, the building has already developed "cliques" and there have been some tensions. Ms. Lammel describes the pool scene, for example, as an "animal house."

"One time I went up there and the twentysomethings had the whole place monopolized," she recalls, "and I thought, Well, not today." Ms. Lammel says she and some of her cohorts have a strategy for reclaiming the space, at least temporarily: They're planning a covered-dish pool party. "Anyone is welcome," she says in her pleasant Southern drawl. "But we'll see who shows up."

(I think I've seen that show before. It's called Three's Company.)

At other complexes, developers are finding that many twenty-somethings don't actually want to live like mini-Lindsay Lohans relapsing at the Roosevelt:

The William Beaver House, a planned 320-unit high-rise in Manhattan's financial district, has an R-rated marketing campaign featuring a martini-swilling beaver (the project is named for its location at the intersection of William and Beaver streets) and provocative, animé-style images of scantily clad men and women trading flirtatious glances. The building will feature a poolside bar, a residents-only penthouse lounge and a 44-seat movie theater that can double as a nightclub. . . .

Some experts say developers -- many of them in their 40s and 50s -- don't always have the right idea about what this generation of buyers is really looking for. Condos replete with barbecue pits and hot tubs may actually be more appealing to boomers than to young home-buyers looking for a sound investment. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that price was by far the most significant factor among young condo buyers; location was a distant second. In addition, people under 35 were less likely than their older counterparts to say they take advantage of many on-site facilities. . . .

Indeed, on a recent Tuesday evening at Realm, the lounge off the lobby sat empty, its flat-screen televisions switched off and its pool table unused. An upstairs club room had more flat-screens but no one was watching them. Outside, jets sprayed arching streams of water into a vacant swimming pool, and the fire pit and barbecue on the terrace were unlit.

Turns out that Boogie Nights shag-pads don't appeal to Gen Y so much after all. When you end up attracting a bunch of 50-somethings trying to relive their youth, you know your Gen Y marketing campaign has bombed. (I can see it now — all of today's helicopter parents invading their kids' condo complexes when the time comes. There is no escape. . . )

Another sign that these developers have seriously misgauged their market: It's hilarious that they're trying to attract the video-game-playing and animé-cartoon-watching crowd in particular with marketing materials full of smooching couples and scantily clad women. All the gamers I know — all of them male — strongly prefer each other's company. The only hot babes they seem to have any use for are the virtual kind.