Celebrity chef Michael Lomonaco's Porter House New York is one of the toughest reservations in Manhattan. Designed by architect Jeffrey Beers and overlooking Central Park from the fourth floor of Related Cos.' Time Warner Center, the club-like steak-and-martini restaurant has been featured in Esquire and draws a steady crowd of celebrities, sports stars, and corporate executives. For the average Joe, though, snagging a table is next to impossible—unless that average Joe also happens to be a resident at One Central Park, the 225-unit luxury condo complex at Time Warner Center.
To satisfy their amenity-hungry residents and develop retail synergies in their mixed-use projects, Related offers residents special programs, perks, and promos—such as front-of-the-line reservation priority to Porter House and other Time Warner Center restaurants. In fact, resident groups at the twin-towered, mixed-use community were among the first to get a glimpse of Porter House and have a wine and food sampling with Lomonaco himself—a prelude to a free cocktail at the hot spot that Related extends to all its residents.
“Successful mixed-use doesn't just happen,” explains Related senior vice president David Froelke. “It's not just the compilation of residential and retail under one umbrella and calling it a project. It is a unique planning process to maximize the experience of everyone who lives, works, plays, shops, and dines in your community.”
Froelke's mantra points to a trend among multifamily property managers. More and more firms must leverage proximity to retail—whether on-site or in the immediate neighborhood—to offer a winning mix of amenities for residents as well as ancillary sales and marketing opportunities for their business partners.
PERSONAL TOUCH Such special perks and discounts can enhance resident loyalty and boost revenue for local retailers. As part of Related's programming at the Time Warner Center, for example, residents have access to the Mandarin Hotel's spa; get priority access to and, at times, private and/or complimentary concert tickets for the Jazz at Lincoln Center series; and can win resident-only contests to be dressed by Time Warner Center haute couturiers Pink and Montmarte.
What's more, events aren't one-time affairs. Months after the Porter House closed-door tasting, Time Warner Center tenant First Republic Bank sponsored a Porter House Thanksgiving Day brunch for residents with a special viewing of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The invitation? Lomonaco's signed cookbook. Granted, residents at One Central Park aren't exactly living on skid row—units reportedly range between $1.5 million and $47 million—but these perks help introduce the residents to the stores and amenities in the community.
The rich and famous aren't the only ones with access to cool retail promos, though. At Dallas' the Lofts at Mockingbird Station, monthly rents across the 211 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments range from $910 to $4,000, and residents enjoy VIP specials and exclusives at a host of local retailers, including free appetizer and drink nights at Urban Taco and screening passes to the independent movie house Angelika Film Center & Café. “The residents are there and should be a captive audience for the retailers,” says Jill McClure, community manager for the Lofts at Mockingbird Station. “Programs and promos can help to draw them out and give them things to do and reasons to explore their community.”
McClure says that resident surveys are a great way to determine the community's wants and needs—and they provide data that property managers can use to cultivate the right mixed-use footprint. “We have not established hard retention data via surveys, but anecdotally, [residents] are indicating that the retail opportunities are one of the key factors keeping them at the community,” she says. And the priority treatment works in reverse as well: Retail employees at Mockingbird get first dibs on any units that become available for rent.
BUILT-IN BENEFITS Thankfully, partnerships between retailers and multifamily operators aren't exclusive to mixed-use communities. Cleveland, Ohio-based Forest City Residential has had great success creating neighborhood maps for its residents that highlight dining, shopping, and other services within walking, driving, or transit distance from their apartment. Atlanta-based Post Properties is leveraging Web technology to offer residents prime retail deals and discounts in cooperation with Sparkfly, an Atlanta-based rewards provider. Post also uses Sparkfly internally as an employee benefit, providing staff with discounts on flowers, restaurants, car insurance, even ski packages.
“It was great for the employees, but we also have this huge resident base out there for Sparkfly to reach,” says Jaime Teabo, senior vice president for Post Apartment Management. Branded “Post Perks,” Sparkfly services are offered to residents directly through their resident portal—they have access to all of the available discounts, a selection Teabo characterizes as a cross-section of opportunities to go shopping, plan a vacation, buy a car, or see a show.