Since the 2008 housing meltdown, pickings for new construction condos in the Bay Area have been slim. And in central Contra Costa County near Walnut Creek, they’ve been even slimmer. With most new developments going rental or being shelved altogether, it’s tough finding a unit anywhere that hasn’t been owned before.

1xxxBut 555YVR at 555 Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek, a sleek 87-unit development that opened for sales last summer, is 50 percent occupied after nearly a year of sales. It has units priced from the $300,000s to the $700,000s.

Bruce Dorfman, principal of Thompson Dorfman Partners, the developer of 555YVR, said the transit-oriented project has been attracting three distinct sets of buyers for its flats, townhomes and life-work homes.

“A lot of people we have coming up here are first-time buying Generation Y-ers who are getting out of San Francisco and Oakland, yet still want to be close to shopping, dining and transit,” he said.

555YVR is within walking distance of downtown Walnut Creek and three blocks from the community’s BART stop and access to Interstate 680.

“We’re also getting some empty nesters who are looking to simplify their lives, and we’re getting people in between those age groups that have lived in this kind of high-density housing in the past,” Dorfman said

That last category includes folks like physician Carl Nibley, who works at nearby John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. He previously owned a home in Orinda, and he was looking to get back to the carefree turnkey condo lifestyle he enjoyed years back in San Francisco.

“Having been both a condo and homeowner in the past, I decided there were a lot of advantages of being a condo owner and not having to worry about doing all the yardwork, taking out the trash, painting the house, etc.”

So he plunked down $625,000 for a two-bedroom unit in 555YVR last October.555YVR-Sky Deck

Nibley said he’d looked at six other condo buildings in the area, including The Mercer at 530 N. Civic Drive in Walnut Creek, which started off as a for-sale development but is now leasing units. He said 555YVR’s proximity to his work, gym and public transportation, along with its amenities, tipped the scale in its favor.

“There were advantages and disadvantages with all the places I looked at, but I just thought 555YVR offered more value, and there were features like the sky lounge (public rooftop deck) that I really loved. It’s not just a place to hang out; you can really use that space, and the views are fantastic.”

Having driven by the property as it was being built, he saw all the attention that went into its construction.

“I think I’m just experienced enough to know that this building was well built and made to last,” he said.

The building offers a host of different floor plans, with one-bedroom flats starting out in the mid-$300,000 range. Townhomes start out in the mid-$500,000s and the live-work units are just a shade below that. Two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot homes in the development top out around $700,000 and are highlighted by views of nearby Mount Diablo.

Amenities in the FHA-approved building include a landscaped courtyard, a public roof terrace with outdoor fireplace and sweeping views of the valley and Mount Diablo. There’s also a private fitness center, media room and dedicated dog run, which was part of the clincher for resident Holly Park, who paid $429,000 for a one-bedroom home last December.

“For the price, this unit was huge compared to the other places I saw,” she said. “And hardly any of the other buildings I looked at would let me bring in my 70-pound dog.” Nibley’s unit faces the courtyard, which he says shelters the home from any outside noise. “I’m completely cut off from the urban landscape surrounding the building,” he said. “When I’m in my home, I just hear birds chirping. I feel like I’m living in the hills, which I thought was unique. It doesn’t have a pool, but for me that worked out well, because I wanted the quietness that comes with adult living, where there aren’t a lot of kids playing in the pool and such.”

At half occupied, sales in the building are not moving as quickly as they may have been in 2007, but that’s not something Nibley minds. “It’s been nice to be here from the beginning and not having a mad rush for 100 percent occupancy,” he said. “It’s allowed the builder to work out any finishing issues with the building, and it’s been pretty serene living so far.”

Jeremy Schnitker, San Francisco Chronicle