Anticipation for blu among well-heeled Beverly Hills renters is running high. Interest has grown since November, when Galaxy Commercial Holdings dropped its construction tarps to reveal the blue glass façade of the 37-unit exclusive rental high-rise on Wilshire Boulevard just seconds from The Ivy, Spago, and Lisa Kline. VIPs lucky enough to move into one of the units this month—the customer demographic includes clothing designers, plastic surgeons, film producers, and Grammy Award-winning musicians—know exactly what they are getting: unparalleled luxury in amenities and design that rival some of L.A.'s toniest condo communities.
Monthly rents for blu's one-bedroom, unfurnished pads start at $4,200, but the Galaxy team is hoping most residents opt for their ultimate no-hassle move-in—a completely furnished residence outfitted by interior design firm Parker Rose Design that includes housewares, flat-screen televisions, all utilities, and weekly housekeeping. Part of that design service includes extensive customization of finishes, a trend that multifamily design experts say is gaining ground, particularly among A-plus class residents shying away from the condo market.
“Most of the people interested in blu are clearly going to go for the sleek, urban, contemporary look,” says Galaxy vice president Lauren Cohen. “But through our partnership with Parker Rose, residents can customize their unit's interior design. You like earth tones? You want the unit to look like the W Hotel you just stayed in? We will make the unit look like that. Other people might have more opinions. Depending on the furnishings available to Parker Rose, they do everything to make that happen.”
RETENTION REACH So far, most rental communities are fairly stringent as to how much customization they allow in apartments. Final finishes such as paint color and wall hangings are easy to swap out during unit turnovers, but allowing for personal preference when it comes to granite countertops, cabinetry, solid surfaces, and other products installed during construction can prove to be more cost prohibitive. Even at blu, renters “are not in a situation where it is which refrigerator do you want, which this, which that,” Cohen clarifies.
Still, the promise of high-end resident retention has some property owners and managers looking to expand their customization offerings. “The industry is nudging in that direction,” says Jon Wood, development partner at the Houston-based Morgan Group, a property management and apartment development firm. “It offers some opportunities. Specifically, we think that helps in the retention of residents.”
Currently, Morgan Group is only offering residents a choice of paint color and the option to install ceiling fans in their units. “But we are trying to go down that path of allowing residents to possibly pick from cabinet and countertop colors and a variety of flooring,” Wood says. “I don't know if we would change the flooring material, but maybe give them the option of selecting from two or three colors of the same product.”
CONDO INSPIRATIONS Indeed, while the trend of luxury rental customization has been driven by consumer expectations acquiesced to the condo market, industry experts say that deals may not pencil out when renters have input in the development process.
“The focus for some time was to out-fit condos with customized finishes and luxury amenities,” says Alexandra Bellak, associate for New York City-based real estate brokerage firm Prudential Douglas Elliman. She says that even if you don't offer true customization, residents can experience a quasi-custom living space. Extreme high-end fixtures say “custom” to customers, even if they are essentially getting an unchangeable stock offering.