Credit: Matt Moore


They say Steve Jobs wasn’t a people person.

Which makes the personal connection users feel with Apple products that much more remarkable.

It’s also a lesson apartment operators can learn from as they outfit properties with tech amenities that will attract Gen Y renters and be meaningful to them once they move in.

No longer wowed by static theater rooms, stodgy business centers, or the option of ordering a pizza through their TVs, today’s renters are looking for technology amenities that actually do something for them, ones they can interact with to make their lives easier. And having grown up with the do-it-for-you service of the Apple Store, they want all of those gadgets and services to just work, and be available to them on demand.

“Residents are focused on amenities that improve their lives,” says Daria Salusbury, senior vice president at New York–based Related Cos., whose Technology Concierge service helps residents with everything from home networking to hanging a flat-screen TV inside their apartment. “Technology plays such an integral role in people’s lives these days. We want to ensure that we’ve thought ahead and provided them with the infrastructure and service platform necessary.”

Cater to Them

At Related’s 63-story, mixed-use MiMA Tower in Midtown Manhattan, common-area must-haves include universal Wi-Fi, a café-like tech center with rows of iMacs, and a dedicated Equinox fitness center with the latest touchscreen equipment. The property has individual theater rooms—free popcorn included—as well as an outdoor theater with a 15-by-35-foot movie screen and a Titan HD 600 projector on a 5,500-square-foot terrace where residents gather for movie night.

While all of that is cutting-edge, it’s the fact that residents are actually interacting with those amenities that gives them longevity. “Focusing on what customers actually use creates long-term value,” Salusbury says. “It’s all about catering to their lifestyles. Our Internet lounge with iMac computers gets a lot of use.” She also says the property’s movie night is always well-attended.

Make Life Easy

Perhaps more than anything else, it’s this lifestyle aspect of technology amenities that speaks to Gen Y renters: They still want cool gadgets, but they want them in a way that simplifies, rather than complicates, their lives. And they want them to be accessible both inside and outside their apartments.

The ironic corollary of Americans’ ever-increasing amount of time spent in front of a screen—and its isolating effect—is the fact that young renters are now seeking more public spaces in which to be digitally connected. “Millennials have all the technology they want in their hands,” says Joseph Batdorf, president of Houston-based J Turner Research. “What they’re ­really looking for is a place to use it.”

For Diana Pittro, executive vice president at Chicago-based RMK Management Corp., that means making sure her properties are equipped not with a closed-off, 1990s-style “business center” but, instead, a modern media lounge and cyber café. At the firm’s Parc Huron community in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, residents congregate around dedicated PCs, kick back on sofas, or watch sports in the Starbucks-like setting. “Having that is huge; our residents use it all the time,” Pittro says.

At Parc Huron, yesterday’s pin-up bulletin boards and flyers are replaced with flat-screen monitors in the lobby to update residents about community news and package arrivals. And prospective residents get a flash drive preloaded with community info, rather than a traditional hard-copy brochure. “It shows that we’re tuned in to their needs,” Pittro says.

Another quickly emerging tech tantalizer: multipurpose rooms equipped with gaming consoles, perhaps along with traditional diversions such as pool tables. At Phoenix-based Alliance Residential’s properties, flat screens pull triple duty as gaming stations, resident communication tools, and even art. “We’ve had communities use flat-screen TVs within the common areas to highlight local artists,” says Alexis Vance, marketing director at Alliance. “Creating spaces and amenities that serve multiple purposes is always the best bet.”

And don’t forget the details inside the apartment, as well. Relatively cheap upgrades, such as in-unit iPod docking stations and USB-enabled charging panels, can make a big impression on prospective residents and often calculate out to less than $20 per unit. “Those are the kinds of tech amenities that allow us to appeal to our core Gen X and Gen Y audience,” says Vance.

They go hand in hand with allowing your residents to interact with you without leaving their apartment too. “Online conveniences, such as mobile payments and social media, allow us to interact with our residents through channels they prefer,” Vance says. “As a bonus for us, those features provide an additional layer of tracking that was previously unavailable.” MFE

Contributing editor Joe Bousquin is based in Sacramento, Calif. Additional reporting by Jane M. Wolkowicz.