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Jamaica Plain apartments going upscale — for a price

At Olmsted Place on South Huntington Avenue, studios start at $2,600.
At Olmsted Place on South Huntington Avenue, studios start at $2,600. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

The first of three big new apartment buildings planned on the northern edge of Jamaica Plain opens this week, testing demand for downtown-style high-end rentals in the fast-changing neighborhood.

Tenants began moving in Sunday at Olmsted Place, an $84 million, 196-unit building developed by Boston Residential Group. The building they’re moving into is unlike any other on this stretch of South Huntington Avenue, which is dominated by the massive Veterans Administration hospital across the street.

The Olmsted, not far from the booming Longwood Medical Area, has all the bells and whistles of a modern luxury apartment building: a hip lobby, a doorman, a dining room that residents can reserve, plus a vast pool deck overlooking Olmsted Park.

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It’s charging rents to match: Three-bedrooms top $5,000 a month, and studios start at $2,600 — about the average rent for all apartments in Jamaica Plain, according to data from Rent Jungle.

But the five-story complex is a big change from the Victorians and small brick multifamily buildings that make up much of Jamaica Plain’s rental stock. And it won’t be the last. Down the street at 105A South Huntington, a 195-unit building known as Serenity is set to begin construction around the end of the year. And next door to Olmsted Place, at the old Goddard House nursing home, Eden Properties and Samuels & Associates are planning a 169-unit apartment building.

For Boston Residential Group’s chief executive, Curtis Kemeny, Olmsted and its soon-to-be neighbors are a sign the neighborhood’s evolving from largely institutional uses — his building is on the site of the old Home for Little Wanderers — into a hub for new housing.

“This whole strip is changing,” he said. “This is a good thing for the neighborhood.”

Getting it permitted was not easy. The project took two years to work through neighborhood concerns, Kemeny said, then another two years to build. In part because of worries about affordability, 19 percent of the Olmsted’s units are reserved for lower-income renters, more than the city’s typical 13 percent requirement.

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But now that it’s up and running, Kemeny said that he is seeing strong demand, especially from working professionals in the nearby Longwood corridor and at Northeastern University. So far, he has leases signed for about 30 percent of its units.

More and more people are moving to the neighborhood from pricier spots like the Back Bay and the South End, rental brokers say. While some want the vintage charm of Jamaica Plain’s older homes, said Rachael Kulik, at the brokerage firm JP Rentals and Sales, others like the new finishes and the full amenities at a lower price than they might find closer to downtown.

“I think demand is only going to continue to grow,” said Kulik, who recently rented a unit in the Olmsted to a couple moving from the South End. “JP is really popular right now.”

Bringing a new type of resident to the neighborhood is part of the plan for the Olmsted, Kemeny said. His leasing office hears from a lot of would-be renters who want to live in Jamaica Plain but also want the amenities a big new building can offer.

And he’s not worried that others like it will be opening in the next few years.

“There is room for all of us,” Kemeny said. “We saw the potential of this location. And the pie is going to keep growing.”

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Olmsted Place at 161 South Huntington Ave. is a doorman building with amenities like a dining room that residents can reserve plus a large pool deck overlooking Olmsted Park.
Olmsted Place at 161 South Huntington Ave. is a doorman building with amenities like a dining room that residents can reserve plus a large pool deck overlooking Olmsted Park. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.

Correction: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Olmsted.