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Property managers are looking forward to a busy summer by the pool. As more people become vaccinated against the coronavirus and the number of new cases declines, the outdoor spaces at multifamily communities are likely to be crowded by residents eager to meet friends and neighbors in person.

“The amenity spaces that focus on social gatherings, such as our outdoor fire pits, bocce ball courts, and grilling areas, will be in high demand,” says Louis DeVos, vice president of property management at Woodmont Properties. “After being restricted by quarantine for so long, residents have an overwhelming desire to congregate.”

Managers Still Scrubbing Down Outside Areas

Public spaces at many apartment communities had to close during the pandemic. Outdoor spaces had fewer restrictions , but residents still had to remain socially distanced from each other. Site teams often removed furniture and cleaned constantly.

These property managers are still scrubbing because residents are spending so much time in outdoor common areas. “The frequency of wiping down surfaces, arranging furniture, cleaning pet areas, and emptying trash receptacles has increased exponentially,” says David Scharfenberg, senior vice president of operations for Waterton.

Residents are likely to keep spending more time than usual in these outdoor spaces as the weather gets warmer.

“We are anticipating increased demand for our outdoor facilities and will be implementing more activities for the pool and sundeck areas each Saturday,” says Anthony Scotland, director of marketing at Post Brothers.

Flexible Space Has Lasting Value

These outdoor spaces have been especially valuable in attracting residents to apartment communities. “We all realized during the lockdown just how precious outdoor spaces really are. We can’t overstate enough how much better our entire portfolio has performed … simply because of how much outdoor space we offer at every property,” says Scotland.

Flexible spaces—and outdoor spaces often meet that billing—are likely to have value, no matter what the future holds. “Open courtyards, picnic areas, community rooms, exercise studios, and dog parks are relatively inexpensive compared to other amenities, and they offer programming options for managers,” says Elie Rieder, founder and CEO of Castle Lanterra Properties.

Communities Take Their Yoga Classes Outside

Residents will be able to take yoga, stretching, and other fitness and wellness classes in the open air at many apartment communities this summer.

During the pandemic, apartment communities had to close their indoor fitness centers, but some were still able to hold some exercise classes in person in outdoor spaces. “We will look to continue the outdoor fitness options again this summer … because the classes were so well-received,” says DeVos.

Food Trucks Are Hard to Find

Property managers also will continue to use outdoor spaces to gift their residents with free food.

“Resident events are currently almost entirely outdoors or virtual,” says Scharfenberg. “If we are distributing breakfast on the go, it is at the exit of the parking lot or at a table set up just outside an urban high-rise.”

Companies like Waterton also plan to hire food trucks to visit their properties with giveaways or special incentives for the residents.

“Food trucks are wildly popular,” says Scharfenberg. “Our residents generally haven’t been able to eat out and are tired of cooking.” However, these rolling restaurants are in high demand—it can be hard to get a reservation. “There are often wait lists to get some of the top food trucks … We are in competition with weddings and corporate events.”

Still Working From Home

Many residents also will continue to work from home this summer—taking their laptops on weekdays to crowd lounge chairs and barbecue areas—once only full on weekends, says Scharfenberg.

Residents may continue to use their apartment communities as office space long after the pandemic is over.

“Our residents generally work in industries where they can telecommute,” says Woodmont’s DeVos. “While we don’t know how many will continue to do so post-pandemic, we know those that do will value having the flexibility.”

Outdoor workstations need to be set up so that residents have access to strong cellphone signals, multiple electrical outlets, and reliably fast, wireless Internet. DeVos adds that Woodmont is providing a greater variety of seating areas with laptop and tablet space and smaller spaces where teams of people can easily meet.