Credit: Thomas P. Cox Architects

  How hot are amenities becoming in the new renter economy? Consider that New York City-based Related, which is currently fetching rents between $2,895 and $5,995 for apartments at the 651-unit MiMA in Manhattan nonetheless set aside plenty of rentable space—44,000 square feet, to be exact—for M Club, an amenities space that features a fitness center, heated indoor lap pool, boxing room, basketball and volleyball courts, outdoor terraces with private dining “pods,” indoor and outdoor movie screening rooms, a resident lounge with a fireplace, a billiards and card room, and bicycle storage center. Oh, and Dog City, a professionally staffed pet spa with indoor and outdoor play areas, grooming and training facilities, in-home feeding, walking services, and scheduled pooch play dates.

“We are always customizing our new products to the marketplace,” says Related senior vice president Greg Gushee of the over-the-top M Club. “For MiMA, we surveyed our current residents and the marketplace, and that is what led us to the amenity package you see there today. We built on our experience in our other buildings as well and then took them to a new and creative level."

In greater Los Angeles, recession weariness is a distant speck in the rear view window as apartment communities are unveiling night-club themed roof decks and common areas to attract glitzy lifestyle renters beyond the Hollywood submarket. At properties including the Westgate in Pasadena; Canvas LA in Angelino Heights; and the Vivere in Anaheim, operators are getting creative in how outdoor spaces can be highly amentized destination locations for renters and prospects alike.

“There are submarkets where the amenities are really over the top,” says Daniel Gehman, principal at Los Angeles-based Thomas P. Cox Architects. “This crazy, loungey, nightlife thing is more apt to be employed by a property that needs to distinguish itself in an already competitive marketplace, and it tends to target a younger demographic. Put those two things together, and in the next five or six years we are going to see a whole pile of these.”

Indeed, across the board, super-amped, over-the top amenities are popping up, even as the industry begins to push rents to record levels. And so far, residents seem more than happy with the extra perks.

Credit: Bozzuto Management Company

Plug it In
Renter appetite for green building features and sustainability commitments also has apartment operators looking to supercharge amenties, particulary when it comes to the addition of designated electric car parking and power-up spots on property. In March, both the Bozzuto Company and Alliance Residential unveiled electric car charging stations at marquee properties.

At the Fitzgerald, Bozzuto’s 275-unit, LEED-certified apartment community in Baltimore, Md., community officials and media outlets swamped the unveiling of what is being touted as the first residential car charging station in the Mid-Atlantic market to see demos with a Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt. “The Fitzgerald and many other communities that Bozzuto manages have received resident inquires about accommodating electric vehicles,” says Bozzuto Managemnt Co. Sustainability Project Manager Eric Fenton. “Our goal is to be on the leading edge of new technologies and sustainable initiatives, so it makes sense to offer these types of amenities proactively. We would never want to turn away a potential resident because we weren't able to accommodate their electric vehicle. While this is a relatively new industry, we believe the demand will continue to increase quickly.”

In Austin, Alliance Communities held a similar soiree to fete a ChargePoint charging station at the 280-unit Broadstone Grand Avenue. The ChargePoint station features dual 120- and 240-volt output chargers and can be located via smart phone by drivers looking to power up, offering Broadstone Grand Avenue a competitive advantage when it comes to hot drive-by prospect leads. “As a whole, the Austin community is very eco-conscious and, prior to the installation of our car charge station, Austin apartment dwellers who owned electric vehicles had no at-home option for charging their car,” says Alliance Communities Texas regional manager Joanna Hackney. “We saw a way to address a potential need for residents and prospects who choose to own an electric vehicle, while simultaneously appealing to the green movement that grows stronger in Austin every day.”

Boasting the Basics

Apartment operators need not break the bank in order to keep pace or even come out a winner in the amenities arm race, however. With many renters opting for self-service entertainment (think iPad movies, RedBox DVD kiosks, and smart phone socializing) and off-the-cuff Facebook-organized BBQs, communities often need to simply offer hip, relaxing spaces where residents can gather. 

“Sometimes it only takes a little programming to activate an otherwise over-furnished space that is sitting empty,” Gehman says. “But there are still must-haves: You need a hang out and chill space, and for anything above 150 units, you need a fitness room. Nobody is getting in line to eliminate those spaces.”