What's one of the greatest allures of living in an apartment or condo? Social activities and amenities–be it relaxing by an outdoor fireplace on a crisp fall night or meeting fellow canine-lovers in the dog park. This year's Multifamily Executive award winners capitalized on creating a sense of community. They thought outside the unit, using stellar amenities and innovative designs to bring residents together.

Amenities abound in these award-winning projects, from the high-end to the affordable. You'll find everything from demonstration kitchens and community vegetable gardens to Internet cafés and clubhouses lined with big screen TVs. Westhaven Park Apartments, an affordable community in Chicago, even has a full-time service coordinator to organize block parties and more.

Plus, the projects feature carefully planned pedestrian-friendly settings. Cityville Fitzhugh, a low-rise infill community in Dallas, offers a walkable, tree-lined streetscape and not just one, but three distinct courtyards featuring a pool and fireplace. At Quantico Family Housing, a military community in Quantico, Va., the homes feature street-facing stoops and porches–and garages that are tucked in back–to maximize resident contact.

This community-centric approach extended well beyond project entries. Winners in the marketing and advertising category attracted prospects by focusing on lifestyle, rather than the details of the actual living units. For instance, ads for The Condominiums at Carlyle Square in Alexandria, Va., highlight the project's close proximity to restaurants, pubs, and galleries.

So what can we learn from this year's winners? Sometimes it's what's on the outside that counts.

–Rachel Z. Azoff

PROJECT OF THE YEAR: HIGH-RISE
Manhattan in Texas
The Ashton

From the beginning, the Hanover Co. knew it wanted to build a high-end apartment property in Dallas with units that could fetch more than $3,000 a month in rent. But regional development partner Ed Hamilton also knew the property needed to be in the right part of Dallas: Uptown.

LUXURY LIFE: The Ashton, named the High-Rise Project of the Year, brought many condo-style amenities and features to the Dallas market, including a rooftop view of the city's skyline. Colors also ruled the competition, including the Fiesta House (below), awarded the prize for Senior Project of the Year.

LUXURY LIFE: The Ashton, named the High-Rise Project of the Year, brought many condo-style amenities and features to the Dallas market, including a rooftop view of the city's skyline. Colors also ruled the competition, including the Fiesta House (below), awarded the prize for Senior Project of the Year.

The key: blending the building with its brick and limestone surroundings. "It's always a challenge to make a project fit in with a high-profile neighborhood," Hamilton says.

Hamilton wanted to build a high-quality property inside as well. "The whole idea was to create an exclusive, urban product with hotel-like amenities," he says. "We also had to have top-line materials and high-end finishes."

Amenity-wise, The Ashton certainly fits the bill. It has a full theater, demonstration kitchen (so that cooks can come in and teach courses), a wine cellar, a living room with a plasma television, a formal dining room for 12 people, a pool lounge (with air conditioning and three televisions), a pool that overlooks Dallas, and a library. "With the library, residents can get out of the apartment, come down, and socialize," Hamilton says.

The interior amenities are just as nice with floor-to-ceiling glass, hardwood floors, granite tiles in the bathroom, hazelnut kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, stainless steel appliances including Maytag side-by-side refrigerators, large master bedrooms with double vanities, frameless shower doors, marble flooring and tub/shower surrounds in all bathrooms, 8-inch solid wood interior doors, and a purse shelf at the entry to each home. "We designed The Ashton to be a show stopper and make a first impression, and, quite frankly, it does," Hamilton says. –Les Shaver

The Ashton

  • Location: Dallas
  • Developer: The Hanover Co.
  • Opening Date: March 2005
  • Units: 267
  • Unit Mix: One- and two-bedrooms
  • Rents: $1,700 to $11,000
  • Cool Stuff: Full theater, demonstration kitchen, wine cellar, and pool lounge