DIVORCED last March after a 15-year marriage, with three children and a job that requires extensive travel, David Hess said, “I suddenly didn’t know what to do with myself, in terms of where to live.” He knew that he wanted a place where his children, 16, 13, and 11, would feel at home on weekends, and that it should be near their mother’s house in suburban Morris County. But given his work schedule, he said, maintaining his own single-family house seemed out of the question.
Mr. Hess, 47, looked at apartments — both rental and condominium — but found none were set up to be both “homey” and “comfortable for someone who travels constantly.”
He did not really consider a hotel, or even an extended-stay hotel, Mr. Hess said, because that would be a “place to stay, but not a place to live.”
In the end, he found his niche by moving into a new type of housing that is itself beginning to find a niche, particularly among divorced parents like him, according to its developers at Korman Communities.
The AVE complex in Union where Mr. Hess has resided since it opened in July is one of six, all close to mass transit centers. Three are in New Jersey, two are in Pennsylvania, and one has just been completed near a planned Metro stop in Dulles, Va.
The AVE complexes differ from extended-stay residences in that they offer both luxury hotel-style service and rental units, furnished and unfurnished, with condo-style amenities. A tenant can sign a lease for any time period 30 days or longer, and move in within 48 hours.
Furnished units at the midrise AVE complexes — the other two New Jersey sites are Clifton and Somerset — are leased on a monthly basis, for daily rates starting at $145. Most takers are corporate travelers and business people, either working on long-term projects or being relocated, said Lea Anne Welsh, who developed the AVE brand for Korman.
“It is the same idea as an extended-stay hotel,” she offered, “although we think this provides a much nicer situation, because of the amenities and services.”
But it is the unfurnished units — leased for a minimum of six months, and ordinarily a year — that are emerging as a “hybrid” housing alternative, Ms. Welsh said. Set off in separate wings, and offering weekly social events for residents, in addition to the AVE concierge services, free cafe breakfast and fitness center access, they are evolving into small “neighborhoods,” as Ms. Welsh put it.
“That alternative seems to appeal really strongly to the divorced-dad/executive group,” she said, “and some divorced moms, too.” Dozens of no-longer-married adults, many of them with children, have signed leases for a year’s term or longer at each of the complexes, she said; divorced fathers account for about 25 percent of all tenants at the 785 units in New Jersey, and 508 in Pennsylvania.
Korman did not precisely set out to capture the divorced-person market, Ms. Welsh explained. “But we did realize that our concept offering flexibility, style and services was likely to appeal to that group.”
Also, she said, the company had expected that locations in suburban communities close to major urban centers would appeal to “people in transition, who want to stay close to family” — and its expectations have been borne out.
Mr. Hess, for example, says he is thrilled that his children have only a 10-minute train ride between his home and their mother’s in an adjoining community.
George Carrara, who has lived in the 238-unit AVE Clifton on Passaic Avenue since April 2007, describes himself as “one of the divorced legions.”
“I don’t have kids myself,” he said, “but I am Sicilian, so I have a tight-knit family, and they come to visit often.”
Mr. Carrara, who is a vice president of the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation, described the Clifton site as ideal for him because it provides easy access to the company’s showrooms in Manhattan and its distribution center in Cranbury.
“Clifton!” he said. “Who would have thought? Two minutes off the highway, and during the summer, out by the pool, you’d swear you’re in Bermuda.”
Lights that change colors at the push of a button are built into the pool deck; in the summer, vine arbors and tropical plantings are installed, Ms. Welsh said. The Clifton complex also has a large “tranquillity courtyard,” set beside its yoga center.
On the professional side, the AVE complexes offer business centers with banks of computers, and fully wired conference rooms, where Mr. Carrara said he sometimes conducts meetings.
The resort hotel/neighborhood/executive suite ambience is not for the faint-of-wallet, of course.
Danielle Mayville, whose two daughters reside with her during the week (doing their homework in the business center and watching films in the movie theater), said: “The price is high. It definitely is. But to me, it is so all-inclusive, it is worth it.”
Ms. Mayville, the manager of the Movado boutique at the Mall at Short Hills, leases a two-bedroom two-bath unfurnished suite in Clifton. The price range for such units is $2,595 to $3,330 a month, when leased on a yearly basis. A two-bedroom unit with a study goes for $3,600 a month. One-bedrooms start at $1,995 per month and go up to $2,550.
By contrast, a one-bedroom furnished suite costs $145 to $165 a day, if rented for a month. For a two-bedroom two-bath suite with a direct view of the New York City skyline, the rate is $295 to $395 per day.
Ms. Welsh said the overall economic slump was hurting AVE business “a bit,” but not substantially so far. “In some cases,” she said, “companies are moving people who don’t want to be moved, and maybe trying to cushion the blow by giving them the experience of living at AVE.”
Ms. Welsh says AVE’s employees have come to recognize the signs of a new tenant in the throes of a divorce, and they strive to accommodate “distress or disorientation.”
Some tenants arrive asking about privacy and safety, first and foremost, and not yet ready to gravitate to the social gatherings in the cafe area. “We watch over them, ask how things are going, ask if there is anything they need in their apartments — a blender? Extra pillows and blankets for visitors?”
“Eventually,” Ms. Welsh said, “it seems that everyone settles in to the ‘neighborhood.’ ”