Why Special Amenities Are the X-Factor in Multifamily Design
In this extremely competitive rental and condo market, even atypical, outside-the-box amenity spaces can’t be counted on to elevate a property over the steep competition, especially if they feel tacked on as a bonus. It takes a cohesive design story tying the whole building together to truly stand out.
October 1, 2019
Imagine yourself in this scenario… You are a property developer specializing in multifamily buildings. You've been down this road before — this is not your first rodeo. Your latest apartment building has it all: a beautiful, welcoming lobby, thoughtful corridors, a dog run, an Amazon package room, a WiFi lounge — all unified by a strong, elegantly-told design story. Future residents are visiting and chatting with your staff, appreciating the attention to detail, and asking all the right questions about price, move-in dates, and everything in-between. Things seem to be moving along just as they should be, just as you're used to. And then… they disappear. Lease-up stalls. Units remain empty, amenity spaces sit unused. What’s going on? Your building is missing a standout amenity space.
This is one of the most competitive rental and condo real estate markets we’ve seen, and properties need to be creatively-framed and beautifully-designed simply to compete, let alone stand out among competing properties.
Outside-the-box amenities ideas — like arcades, cargo-net lounges, wine tasting rooms, rock climbing walls, rooftop bars — these were once only for the opulent tech campuses of Silicon Valley. Now, they’re becoming more common in apartments and condo buildings as properties try to magnetize young professionals.
But, it’s not enough to just drop them into your common space. Simply providing top-notch amenities only gets you part of the way there. They have to make sense with the design story you’re telling, or residents won’t find them as attractive as they used to.
In the Lucille, a multifamily property here in Seattle, we created an outdoor passageway and flipped the script on the lobby: we put it outside. The lounge, the fireplace, the views, everything. It created a special space called “The Nook” — within the footprint of the building, in fact, nestled and sheltered within it, but open to the crisp Seattle air — where anyone can gather and hang out, grab a coffee from the attached coffee shop, wander in and out from the adjacent coworking space, and simply be.
The Lucille was telling a design story about having the best of both worlds: the rustic elements of the outdoor lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest, paired with the sophistication of Seattle’s urban center. By taking prime luxury elements and exposing them to the elements, the amenity space feels just right, standing out from the competition.
At Jack, a repositioned multifamily remodel on Capitol Hill, the design story leads to the roof, where a centrally-located rooftop bar channels Parisian street café ambiance, with 360-degree Seattle skyline views. One of the best parts about this element is that it’s a complete surprise. Nothing anchors a leasing tour like a strong design story, leading to a crescendo like a standout rooftop experience.
Special amenities should be elements that highlight what makes your building special from top to bottom, not tacked-on novelty areas that residents forget about after they sign the lease. Young professionals can smell inauthentic design a mile away, and if you care about getting future residents excited about joining your community instead of just filling units, they’ll reward you with longer stays, and the awesome buzz that supports a desirable property.