They don't pay rent or condo fees, let alone have a line of credit. They're not the best at following community rules, and they'll likely leave your common areas looking like a hurricane hit. Do these residents sound like the last people you'd want living at your latest project? Guess again.
This group—the 16-and-under crowd—may just be exactly who you need to attract for your next apartment or condo community especially in urban locales like the Big Apple or Chicago.
Kid-friendly amenities are all the rage as more families decide to either move back to the city from the 'burbs or stay in the city once they start having children. “Theres a lot of anecdotal evidence about over-stressed soccer moms in the suburbs, but we have our own urban soccer moms,” says Dan Cordeiro, managing director of New York-based Corcoran Sun shine Marketing Group, which is marketing a handful of upscale New York projects geared toward making life easier for busy parents.
From posh playrooms to on-call nannies, many of these amenities are splashier than the adult offerings of the typical fitness center and pool. Consider this: 101 Warren, a condo being built in New York City, will offer an outdoor children's garden maze—scaled to size, of course (the hedges are 5 feet tall). Element, another New York condo, will tout a 600-square-foot playroom outfitted with FAO Schwarz toys and games. What could possibly compete with that room? Perhaps the 2,200-square-foot interactive center at New York's 170 East End Avenue project, which features a simulated night sky astronomy viewing window, an air hockey table, and the ever-popular electronic Dance Pad game.
Such extreme amenity packages do add extra bucks to the project's cost, of course. But developers say they get a good return on investment for these offerings, though it's impossible to calculate the exact amount. “For us, the playroom is something that makes the building more appealing and enticing to prospective buyers, so there's an inherent return,” says Andrew Cohen, a partner at New York-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors, which is building several child-friendly properties throughout New York. Plus, parents today are willing to dole out money for their kids, spending about $115.6 billion annually, according to Packaged Facts, a New York-based consumer-research firm.
New York City boasts some of the best examples of kid-friendly digs, but you can expect other cities to follow suit. “First this trend happens in New York, and then Chicago, and finally it hits Bloomington, Indiana,” says Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a Chicago-based national network of urban leaders that is working on a study called “Kids in Cities” to help explore, test, and share strategies for attracting and keeping children in cities. In 1990, the 25- to 34-year-old crowd was 12 percent more likely than other Americans to live within a three-mile radius of a central business district, and by 2000 that figure jumped to 30 percent, according to Census data. “My guess is we are going to have a similarly large leap from 2000 to 2010, and when that happens, I think we are all going to say this is real,” adds Coletta.
Here's a look at the top five ways to wow not only the little ones, but just as importantly, the ones who pay the bills: their parents.
Calling all Kids It's never too early to start touting your property's kid-friendly perks. Just ask Extell Development Co. Its premier party for The Rushmore in New York's West End was a child's dream come true. The four blocks surrounding the future site of the 289-unit property came alive with The Big Apple Circus, a petting zoo, carnival games, a cookie-making tent, and more. The free event was open to the entire community and drew nearly 2,000 people.
Another way to let prospects know you care about kids is to offer play centers and activities right in your sales centers. At ELEMENT, a 193-unit condo underdevelopment in Manhattan, the sales center offers a mini-version of the play area to be built in the property. “Kids can play, but at the same time parents get a sense of the quality of what we are doing,” says Ed Baquero, managing partner of COALCO International, which is developing ELEMENT.
The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay, a master-planned community in Delaware, has the same idea. Inside the sales office, a fully supervised kid's recreation area is equipped with board games, toys, a ball pit, and even a putting area. Who knows? It might just be the kids who convince their parents to move into one of these properties.