Top apartment firms are delivering community amenity packages that residents want and need. State of the art fitness centers, community-wide wireless Internet and package delivery and holding areas, to name a few, are in many cases must-have amenities for residents. But with the amenity bar now reset, many industry executives are wondering what kind of community features and services the next generation of apartment communities will need to have to stay competitive with peers and relevant with residents.
During the panel discussion at The Next Generation of Apartment Amenities
session, Rohit Anand, a principal with architecture and design firm
KTGY Group Inc., said many apartment developers were drawing design
inspiration from not just the hotel industry anymore but places like the
corporate headquarters for Facebook and Google. These properties
showcase unique approaches to corporate design-light and bright spaces,
funky lounge areas, unexpected design twists (seriously a slide?), cool
digital features and more-that create energy, encourage collaboration
and foster creativity. “The idea is to create spaces where people can be
alone together,” Anand said.
Along those lines, some apartment firms are seeing niche amenities as a way to create similar interactions at their communities. Pet amenities, for example, are being taken to a new level with grooming stations and agility courses becoming important features at some communities.
Steven Boyack, senior vice president of asset management and business development at The Laramar Group, explained, “There’s a differentiation between a property that accepts pets and a property that honors pets-and their owners. Dog parks are now really parks and not just unused space. These parks give a place for owners to socialize. Where people used to spend 10 to 15 minutes at the dog park, now they are spending an hour having coffee, getting to know their neighbors.”
Pools are evolving from simple lap pools into specialized areas where residents come together for a similar experience, whether it’s the fun that goes along with a waterpark or the quiet reflection that takes place at a spa pool.
Similarly, community gardens are becoming increasingly popular in the wake of the growth of community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Apartment firms are responding by using a wide variety of garden types-vegetable gardens, butterfly gardens or a cocktail garden, with edible flowers and herbs-to enhance outdoor spaces such as rooftop patios and also revamp underused amenity space (tennis courts, for example). Related activities, such as composting and urban beekeeping, are also creating unique attractions. However, some executives warned of problems if the garden care and maintenance isn’t managed or outsourced. It’s critically important to keep residents engaged in a gardening program, perhaps even by partnering with a CSA program, to keep the gardens looking healthy and attractive.
Many apartment firms are also capitalizing on the rise in the popularity of cycling. Not only are communities offering creative bike storage solutions, but some are adding bike repair stations or working with third-parties to offer bike share solutions on site. Some firms aren’t stopping there. Anand said he knew of one apartment community that had taken the bike shop concept to the next level and created a “man cave” of sorts, where gear heads could hang out, watch sports on the big screen, maybe share a frosty beverage and work on their bikes together.
However, Boyack said, “Not everything has to be a brick and mortar amenity. We’re doing a lot more services. You don't necessarily have to create services; if you can connect them to the best service, that's effective.”
For example, some new apartment communities are being designed with designated food truck parking on site while others are reserving spots for car shares or community moving vans. Others are offering moving services and products, hotel-quality guest suites and on-site technology concierges to help residents untangle technology issues.