Amenities are the cherries on top of the multifamily sundae, a garnish to the main dish being served up in a renters’ unit. Before the pandemic, there was an ‘amenities arms race’ that had landlords looking for new ways to woo prospective tenants. But for the last year many of these perks, like pools, gyms, and lounges, have been mostly closed. This has changed the amenity landscape. Add to this the softening demand for highrise living and you get buildings creating a whole new arsenal of amenities to try to attract people to their buildings. Here are some of the most startling examples of the new lineup of multifamily amenities.
Sign a lease, get a vaccine. That’s what prospects at Atria West 86, a senior living on New York City’s Upper West Side, were told. Atria, which operates about 185 senior living facilities across the United States, is far from the only operator making similar pledges. In an effort to promote senior living facilities as bastions of healthy living, many are going above and beyond to protect vulnerable residents. Ethics aside, senior housing operators partnering with healthcare providers to get residents vaccinated is actually a great way to handle the process. Some have established systems where residents can be vaccinated on-site, saving elderly residents the hassle and danger of traveling to a vaccination site. It’s not as crazy as it sounds either. Roughly 90 percent of Atria’s residents were vaccinated by early February. In a time when senior living occupancy has been particularly hard hit, the added bonus of vaccines is enticing. As the nationwide vaccine rollout picks up speed, operators may be losing their moment to capitalize on this idea.
Fitness spaces are often the most used on-site amenity because, unlike pools, they can be used year-round. A weight room with cardio equipment is so 20th century. Today’s luxury multifamily operators are going a step beyond, creating spaces to program workout classes. Some have gone a step beyond that, investing tens of thousands in Peloton bikes that allow users to connect to the company’s proprietary virtual spin classes. Residents love them. Problem is, Peloton doesn’t love them back. The high-profile e-fitness enterprise no longer accepts purchases form multifamily communities as part of its ‘focus on individual customers.’ The company said it would honor all past purchases, grandfathering in any community that already had bikes, but allowing no more, making the bikes an even hotter commodity for multifamily operators.
Private (Car) Elevators
No one likes riding in an elevator, but it’s something we all accept we must do, unless you’re rich enough. Ultra-luxe developments are offering private elevators to help residents avoid those awkward rides. Brooklyn’s Quay Tower has 55 private elevators, prices start at $1.7 million. But why stop at a private elevator for you and your family? You could have a private elevator for your car too. The Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida will take residents in their car up to park in their condo-side garage. Technically the two elevators are available to all residents who have a garage in their unit, but if it can only move one car at a time, it’s still a private elevator, right? Better yet, the community has an on-site car concierge that will keep your vehicle looking good and working great year-round. The cost and logistics of such an operation is beyond this humble reporter. Perhaps I’m a few tax brackets below the demographic, but it’s hard to understand why parking your car several stories high is better than parking it closer to the ground. A quick getaway it is not.
Private Dog Parks
These days multifamily operators are treating dogs as well as their residents. Dog runs and bathing stations have become ubiquitous in new developments and old. Some multifamily communities with extra outdoor space are creating private dog parks. Houston’s Camden Highland Village, in the heart of the city, boasts a 2.2-acre private dog park on some of the most expensive land in town. The original plan was to let dogs use the space until it was time to build another mid-rise on the vacant site, but residents have so enjoyed the space for their dogs the plot’s remained empty for five years. The park has become a hub for the community, spread out across two mid-rise towers and 38 townhomes. For residents looking for a pet-friendly apartment, it’s hard to beat a private dog park. This idea doesn’t just have legs, it has four furry ones.
One of the best parts of homeownership is having a garage. A garage is more than a space to house a vehicle, it’s a canvas for your passions and a space for creation. Tinkering around in the garage is a luxury exclusive to homeowners no more. Maker spaces act as a sort of garage for residents, giving them dressed-down space and plenty of tools to practice their hobbies. Schools are increasingly emphasizing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), incorporating maker education into curriculum nationwide. A maker space is the perfect place for students to learn. Considering most residents have a place to work in their home and business centers are hardly used with an entire nation working from home, converting the space into something more hands-on is an interesting prospect many multifamily operators are implementing. Who knows, a multifamily maker space could be where the next tech giant is founded, much like garages were for many of the household tech companies.
Private Dining (With Minimum Spending)
On-site dining options for residents are common, especially in cities with prevalent ground-level retail. Having a Michelin-star chef operate on-site dining that takes up an entire floor of the building is less common. The kicker? Residents at 432 Park are required to spend $15,000 a year at the restaurant, up from $1,200 a year when the building first opened six years ago—and breakfast is no longer included. The sharp increase won’t break the bank of residents at one of the most expensive addresses in the world, most are more concerned with the building’s many maintenance issues than they are about the dining. In this case, a luxury amenity seems awfully similar to how college dormitories operate their dining halls.
Electric Car Charging
At this point, it’s hard to determine if electric car charging stations are an amenity or a necessity. As automaker after automaker announces a total shift towards electric vehicles, it’s easy to see charging stations taking over parking garages. For now, they remain somewhat rare. Electric cars and charging ports are not cheap, pushing them into the amenity category. Installing a 220-volt outlet capable of charging an electric vehicle is a major expense and takes up a parking spot you could be charging for. Working with an established car charging vendor will help recoup the additional cost of electricity, requiring anyone using the station to have a membership tracking electricity usage. Many states are working on legislation to make it easier for apartments to implement EV charging stations. California has created an entire guide. With electric vehicles set to become the standard sooner or later, it’s best to get started adding this while it’s still an amenity and not a requirement.
Viewing rooms are common in communities across America, most go unused. While they’re often better than the home viewing experience, they aren’t as good as cinemas so residents often choose comfort over a slightly bigger screen. But what if the screen was massively larger, like an IMAX? 520 W 28th Street, the only residential project in New York City from legendary architect Zaha Hadid has a 12-seat IMAX theater. 130 William quickly followed suit. It may seem like a gimmick for a headline, but outside of the United States, private IMAX viewing rooms are a real trend. The screens aren’t as large as you’d expect in a traditional cinema setting, IMAX is an aspect ratio and seating arrangement, not a set size, so adding an IMAX to a building is more flexible than most think. There are even yachts with IMAX screens. Fair warning, if this is an idea you’re seriously considering, be prepared for sticker shock.
Amenities like these are fun to read about but what they say about the state of the multifamily and condo market is hard to discern. Outside of dog parks and maker spaces, the vast majority of Americans will never see enough wealth to seriously consider access to any of these amenities. The amenities that make a difference for most Americans, like a washer and dryer, instant and endless hot water, a kind property staff that remembers your name, don’t make headlines. Amenities like these are for people who have all that already, and they want more. The ‘amenity war’ as it were is a competition for a small fraction of renters and owners at the very top end of the market. What it says more than anything is that the ultra-wealthy will spend money on just about anything, especially if they can brag about it. With any luck, some of the amenities will trickle down to the rest of the multifamily market.