For this month’s blog, we are sharing our thoughts on the multifamily community amenities and services that have sprung from the rise of the “contactless” age.
We get asked all the time what we think are the latest and greatest amenities and services in multifamily. Because we pride ourselves on designing amenities and services that are based on location and demographic, there is really no blanket answer. However, what we have seen trending is an increasing demand for “contactless” tech-focused amenities and services. While we think that tech-driven efficiencies are fantastic, the downside is that oftentimes by the time a multifamily project breaks ground, the tech is already outdated. So, the question becomes, is it possible to specify smart systems that can grow and update as fast as the tech world does?
While that seems like a question better answered by software developers than designers, we can share from years of experience in senior living, hospitality, and multifamily verticals, that great SERVICE never goes out of style…nor will it require spending hours on the phone with IT.
ARE TRADITIONAL LEASING AGENTS A THING OF THE PAST? For those considering a fully contactless community, we must ask ourselves, do residents really WANT to live in a completely contactless building with no interaction with community staff? We’re not so sure! A few months ago, Melissa attended a breakfast where a consultant mentioned working on a building that will be completely devoid of a leasing agent or any human staff on site. Those who want to take a tour of the building will sign up online and self-tour. If a resident has a maintenance issue, the company managing the building would send someone from another building nearby to assist. This concept was cool in theory and no doubt saved the management group some overhead from a headcount perspective, but doesn’t the lack of immediate human help seem a little cold?
We believe that hospitable service and face to face interactions with leasing agents or community managers creates a sense of place and community for a resident which can in turn increase retention rates. Today’s multifamily residents are savvy shoppers who gravitate toward a multifamily development largely due to the convenient amenities throughout the building. So, no matter how nicely designed the remaining amenity areas or the level of finish in the units, when multifamily projects start sacrificing key amenities in order to value engineer or save some overhead, prospective residents who want to feel like they’re getting the appropriate level of attention in exchange for their monthly payments may feel slighted.
While we are huge fans of cool new tech, let’s not forsake fantastic hospitality-inspired amenities and services in our quest for efficiency!
GREAT SERVICE AND GREAT TECH Setting the leasing agent discussion aside, we have witnessed some great innovation in the multifamily space that have resonated with residents, largely borrowed from hospitality. Concepts that come to mind include communal work areas, dog walking services, health and wellness centers, rooftop bars and pools, and thoughtful collaborations and pop ups with local businesses. We see these types of amenities continue to do well in most markets and surprise, surprise most of these require people in some capacity, which is no coincidence.
Additionally, there are a few “contactless” amenities we’ve grown to love because they do make resident’s lives easier and still feel very personalized. We agree it does feel pretty chic to be able to “reserve” pool or gym time conveniently from your phone, and services like dry cleaning drop offs, on-site Amazon lockers or dedicated fridges for Uber Eats deliveries have become the norm. Our challenge then is to seamlessly incorporate these ideas but still make the design sexy and playful so that residents can access these services but aren’t turned off by a row of metal lockers or a giant commercial fridge. We do this by getting with the developers and/or management group as soon as possible to understand the needs of the community, so we can then perform some design “magic” with those requirements in mind. At the end of the day, our job as designers is to make your multifamily community efficient, operational, AND beautiful (even your Amazon lockers). We know that tech in multifamily communities is necessary to stay competitive, but we hope that as the world reopens, we can include technology that is thoughtful, hospitality-focused, timeless and appropriate for the intended demographic.