Real-estate consultants advise developers of multifamily condos and apartments to develop public square footage in ways that hold the greatest appeal for residents as a way to compete when individual units may be highly similar. While amenity packages depend in part on climate, size of the building, and price point, they also should reflect lifestyle trends. More terraces with fireplaces and large weatherproof flat-screen TVs may be popping up coast to coast, but it’s equally important to understand which amenities no longer hold allure and save the expense. Here’s what we’ve heard generates yawns and ho-hum responses from residents, either because they’ve become as ubiquitous as granite (think quartz, quartzite, and marble) or simply no longer make sense given how resident families spend their free time:
- Movie rooms with stadium seating. Square footage is too valuable in most buildings to devote to single-use spaces; flexible media rooms with movable furniture and disappearing screens are what’s hot, and these multipurpose areas can function in other ways, such as a place to practice power-point presentations or skype.
- Cardio centers loaded with bells and whistles. No matter how impressive, these, too, are giving way to more flexible work-out spaces for health and wellness–an open area for free weights, mats for pilates or yoga, boxing corners.
- Business centers with computers, printers, fax machines. With more people owning hand-held devices—and ones that are shrinking in size, fewer residents require a stand-alone room. All they want is a comfortable place to sit in a big lounge that’s also social and use their laptop or ipad on their lap. Some developers offer a bank of computers in a corner with a network printer as a just-in-case or for visitors.
- Big chef-equipped communal kitchens. While many residents want a place to grab a coffee or a cold beverage, fewer are interested in teaching kitchens with occasional visits by guest chefs, especially when they’re so keen on take-out and dialing for reservations.
- Swimming pools. Though they’ve not totally disappeared and some swank ones have turned up even in buildings in cold climates like Boston, fewer are being included these days due to the need for a large space to construct them, the regular maintenance required, high insurance costs, and lack of interest by many residents in swimming. What’s more key is an outdoor lounge with hot tub or spa, fire pit or fireplace, and TV.
- Saunas and steam rooms. Health department rules and concern by residents about how sanitary they are are reasons these are disappearing.
- Interior lobby waterfalls. Though the sound is appealing and soothing, and they look attractive, they’re now considered gimmicky, and viewed as a waste of precious water.
- Large lobbies. Because many developers don’t want residents hanging out in the lobby, and again because square footage is so valuable and better used for other purposes, including space for retail, lobbies are getting smaller. They may be decorated more expensively, however, as a building’s front door and interior curb appeal.
- Libraries. While the look adds an elegant cachet—think of old-fashioned wood paneled rooms in such estate homes as Downton Abby, few residents want to sit in a hush-rush setting, and fewer developers want to devote space to such limited use.
- Billiards tables. If there’s extra room in a lounge, one or two may be featured, but some developers find they’re a magnet for teens hanging out, a maintenance problem with balls getting lost and felt being damaged, or simply rarely used. In some settings, an outdoor ping-pong table may be a replacement.
- Squash and tennis courts. Squash and racquetball courts replaced some tennis courts years ago as a way to include activity but in a smaller footprint, but both now are disappearing due to lack of sufficient sports interest.
- Closed-off party rooms. The separate party room, often at the top of a building in the past and used on occasion by residents for private fetes, has given way to larger lounges open to all, though some have an area that can be screened off for private events with fold-away doors.
- Mail rooms. Again, more developers devote an area in the open to a bank of mailboxes or have it collected and distributed behind a front desk to conserve valuable space. If placed in an open space, they can become a good social integrator.
- Outdoor playground equipment for children. A liability for developers, it’s incorporated less and less. Some of the most high-end buildings in New York city do, however, have indoor play rooms,
Sources: Kelli Lawrence, partner, Cityscape Residential in Indianapolis; Stephen Alton, Stephen Alton Architect PC, New York; Mark Stapp, real estate professor, W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.
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