Developers are reimagining amenities in glorious new ways to fit today’s apartment resident active trends lifestyle.
From co-working to outdoor living and from fitness to pet care, forward-thinking apartment operators are giving their renters want they want while also realizing boosts in retention and net operating income.
“8 Amenities in New Developments,” a webinar produced as part of the AIM Conference webinar series, sponsored by Cox Communications, discussed strategy with Brian Miller, Senior Design Director, Interior Architecture at Street Sense; Kevin Keane, Chief Operating Officer at The Bainbridge Companies; Jon Cady, Co-Founder at Canine Commons; and moderator Steve Lefkovits, Joshua Conference Group.
Miller says right now he’s seeing a heavy emphasis on providing co-working spaces inside apartment communities.
“It’s a trend that has been building for the past few years, and now with work-from-home because of the pandemic, it’s getting even more traction,” Miller says. “Even when we come out of COVID-19, with more people working on flexible schedules, the demand will remain and grow.”
In the past, such common-area working spaces often were one room with a conference table and chairs. “Now, we’re creating smaller working spaces within that environment. There could be a conference table as before, but now also booths set up that seat 2 to 4 people. People like booths because they create a sense of protection from the rest of the room, but they also are open enough so that participants can feel the energy of the room – others talking and walking by – just like they would from being in an office setting.”
Some developers are including additional, leasable co-work-type office spaces as an additional revenue source.
“The leasable co-work spaces are situated off the amenity-tour path because the property doesn’t want to give the impression that they are part of the amenity package (they are privately leased). And, the person who is leasing them could leave their papers and things in view, creating a potential sloppy or cluttered look,” Miller says.
All of these work-environment spaces are ideal for employed consultants, which is a very popular employment type in markets such as Washington, D.C., and other business hubs.
Fitness and Tea Time
Miller also is rethinking how to design fitness areas to make the space denser, flexible and space-efficient.
“In the past, these areas would be one, wide-open space,” he says. “Maybe part of the space would be set up for fitness classes, but that area would not always be used (or would be used by only one person) and therefore was wasteful.”
“We’re segmenting the space with sliding doors that could create smaller spaces for group classes or individuals, available as needed. We also are adding 10x10 foot rooms so that a resident who works out with a trainer could use and have that privacy.”
Just Look Around
Miller says his clients will suggest a percentage of space they want allotted to common areas and amenities. To gauge his recommendation, Miller studies the neighborhood and aims to design within the context of what is there – identifying what is within a 5-minute walk of the property. Then, he designs to include what’s not nearby, such as more fitness area if local gyms aren’t easily accessible.
“We look to design to counter-program the surrounding area,” he says. “For example, if the area feels ‘cold’ in personality, we emphasize warmth in the way the interior feels. If it’s busy and hectic outside, we might look to convey a more relaxed environment.”
Connecting with Nature
Kevin Keane is COO of The Bainbridge Companies, a company that emphasizes nature and the environment when it comes to designing exciting, active amenities for its residents.
Its developments are all about how they can blend with the natural surroundings, such as lakes, forestry, marshes bays and even beaches, he says.
The Bainbridge Companies has created piers and boat-launch areas adjacent land that surrounds lakes, as well as jogging trails and outdoor el fresco kitchens. And at one property, it built a beach that stretched to Tampa Bay.
Taking that approach student housing development, The Bainbridge Companies creates outdoor amenities related to the pool and cornhole board area, for example, that are designed with social distancing in mind. Also, by using garage doors that can open to the indoor amenities such as its billiard room, its residents are closer to their surroundings.
The Bainbridge Companies has thrived in the Orlando area, one of the fastest-growing markets, but there is no ocean. “We looked for lake-area property and built from that,” Keane says. “Our developments there have been successful.”
For example, at one property, the absorption rate was 45 units per month and it took only seven months to lease-up. Turnover rates have been low. “People love it,” he says.
Keane says The Bainbridge Companies is not looking to build to fit a certain slice of demographic, but instead, builds for all renter types, including families, as it includes many 2-BR and 3-BR units at most properties.
Join the Canine Club
Cady says Canine Commons is leveraging the country’s shift about how dog-owners treat their dogs.
“In just the past few years, the dog has gone from being a family pet to practically a surrogate child,” Cady says. “People want more for their dogs than just a large, grassy area. All these Millennials who are delaying marriage and not having children right away are fueling the dog-owning trend. They seek companionship.”
Cady defines Canine Commons as being one-part wellness space, one-part community destination and one-part social network.
Canine Commons partners with apartment development companies to build approximately 15,000 square foot facilities for dogs and their owners based on a membership fee. The facilities are loaded with fun individual and group play areas of all sizes and other pet amenities such as dog-washing stations.
The high-tech firm has developed an activity smart collar that dogs wear and their owners can track their movement, health, and which other dogs they like to play with. Through connections the owners can make through the app, they can identify and schedule playdates for their dogs with other residents or members.
Canine Commons has facilities planned for Austin, Omaha, Nashville and Phoenix. The Austin facility was created from an unused parking lot located next to an apartment community. The company is looking to grow to other markets, such as Seattle and Chicago, among others.
Apartment companies share in the development costs (the 14,000 square foot Austin property cost $3 million to build). Canine Commons charges a membership fee of $99 for one dog and $129 for more than one dog. The company keeps those fees, but allows apartment properties to set their own rates for access fees, and the apartment company retains 100 percent of that revenue. Canine Commons handles all of the facility management.
Cady says apartment owner benefits from partnering with Canine Commons include:
• less interior wear and tear on the units from dog activity;
• because a tired dog is a quiet dog, there will be fewer resident complaints;
• Canine Commons helps to promote more community resident interaction; and
• Communities can market the facility to dog-owners, and therefore, attract more new residents and collect more pet fee revenue.
Residents sure love their pets – and their amenities.
Here is the replay: