Outdoor fireplaces, indoor basketball courts, and health clubs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to multifamily amenities. In today's competitive market, developers go above and beyond to offer amenities that appeal to their desired demographic, be it echo boomers, baby boomers, or seniors.

Today's popular amenities share a substantial feature—they help connect residents. “Community” is a huge buzzword in the industry and will gain momentum in the next decade, says Randall Lewis, executive vice president of Lewis Apartment Communities, an Upland, Calif.-based developer. Lewis' larger communities employ full-time social directors, who plan everything from Monday night football parties and weekend outings to book clubs and walking clubs.

Village Green Cos., a Farmington Hills, Mich.-based developer and manager, tries to create a sense of community from the moment residents enter their building. In Village Green's lobbies and clubhouses, “you are going to see big screen TVs, great comfortable, functional seating, great books and magazines, and XM Satellite Radio in lobbies,” says Heather Montavani, the company's director of visual merchandising.

To continue this community feel throughout the building, careful amenity placement is critical, adds Al Neely, executive vice president at Archstone-Smith, an Englewood, Colo.-based REIT. “Maybe 10 years ago, we didn't think it mattered that much that the exercise room was sort of off by itself,” he says. “Today we make every effort to connect the exercise room to other amenities in the community, maybe overlooking the swimming pool.” Another example: Archstone combines its cyber cafes with its libraries so people can read and hang out while waiting to go online.

But these high level of luxuries won't become a necessity at all communities, says Tom Bozzuto, CEO of The Bozzuto Group, a Greenbelt, Md.-based developer and manager. “The rental market has been driven over the past decade by customers of choice,” he says. “I think we will see over the next decade as Generation Y hits the rental market, more and more renters of necessity.”

AMENITIES, TODAY AND TOMORROW Here's a look at today's most popular amenities and what developers expect to see in the apartment properties of the future:

Big Hits of Today

  • Movie theaters
  • Outdoor fireplaces and meditation gardens
  • Concierge services
  • Full-service health clubs
  • Rock climbing walls
  • Big Hits of Tomorrow

  • Sub-Zero refrigerators in apartments
  • Dog-walking services
  • Funky leasing centers plastered with panel TVs to create motion
  • Customizable closets
  • Community bonding through reading clubs, nature trips, and karaoke