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NEW HOUSING TRENDS LURE DOG LOVERS TO URBAN LIVING

Urban living for dog lovers can be a challenge, especially when it comes to finding housing. "No dogs" is the rule at many otherwise promising properties, and those buildings that allow dogs often do so grudgingly, forcing pets to use service elevators or back entrances, and to avoid any common areas.

But there's a new trend in high-rise living: projects that not only allow dogs but also welcome them with animal-friendly features. In Washington, New York and Florida, high-rise condominiums are going up with dog parks and grooming rooms built in.

"The two hottest cultural trends in America: pets and real estate," said real-estate expert Bradley Inman, publisher of the Oakland, Calif.-based Inman News. "It is no surprise that they are being married in new and creative ways. Developers are quick to pick up on new trends to differentiate their products and find ways of feeding new niches."

Consultant John Rymer of Atlanta-based Rymer Strategies has observed the same trend. "We recently did a focus group in Tampa for a project and found that pet-friendly activities were at the top of potential home-buyers' list," he said. "The condo project has yet to break ground, but the developer has made it a priority to include pet-friendly amenities."

In Seattle, a rooftop dog park was added to plans for the Cristalla project after focus groups expressed an interest in a safe place for canine exercise. "I would absolutely classify Seattle as a dog-friendly city," said Steve Washburn, the self-described dog lover who's a principal with Cristalla LLC. "I was excited when we were able to develop such a place."

Some dog lovers were just as excited to hear about it. Tom Taylor and Heather Hayes of Seattle, who have bought into the under-construction Cristalla, felt downtown living was a better match with their lifestyle, except that they were unwilling to compromise when it came to their dogs Madison and Jackson.

"Our dogs are so important to us that we consider them in just about everything we do," said Hayes of the couple's two wirehaired fox terriers. "We never would have moved to a place that would not have welcomed our pets. When we heard about the Cristalla's rooftop dog park, it made moving downtown a real possibility in our minds. The fact that the developer considered the dogs was a big part of it for us."

While its multiple dog parks and restaurants that cater to dog lovers mark Seattle as one of the more dog-friendly cities, the trend toward putting dog-friendly amenities in housing is gaining ground elsewhere as well. In New York City, for example, Manhattan Skyline Management's project on the Upper East Side will also include a dog park, on the fifth floor above the retail levels.

And while the Seattle and New York buildings are both pointed at the luxury market, the DUO condominium project in Hallandale Beach, Fla., is aiming for a more middle-class group of dog lovers. The draw at DUO is a "groom room" equipped with bathing, blow-drying and grooming stations for keeping dogs tidy. The room will be available for residents to groom their own dogs, or they can make arrangements for a groomer to make a house call.

"It's not the first time we've developed a property that allows pets, but it's the first that incorporates pet amenities," said David Reich of Triad Housing, developer of DUO. "We have people who are moving from houses and don't want to give up their dogs. We hear, 'Finally, I found a place that welcomes me!'"

Back in Seattle, Heather Hayes is used to the surprised reaction from people who assume she and her husband will be dumping their dogs as part of their move to high-rise urban living.

"A lot of people ask what we will do with the dogs when we move," she said. "You would never move into a place where your kids aren't welcome or have room to play. Our dogs are part of our family. A place that isn't pet-friendly isn't even a consideration for Tom and me."