While Apartment Size Shrinks, Amenity Spaces Grow, Says InterFace Panel
ATLANTA — The amenities arms race is still in full swing. During the architecture and design panel at the eighth annual InterFace Multifamily Southeast conference held on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at the Westin Buckhead in Atlanta, industry experts discussed how they design today’s multifamily projects with large-scale, luxury amenities in mind. The conference drew 402 multifamily professionals.
“There’s so much competition in this space and amenities are really the differentiating factor for all these projects,” said Brad Lutz, director of business development for Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects. “With this shift from homeownership to renting, you have to provide something that’s going to not only attract renters, but retain them long-term.”
Joining Lutz on the panel was JoAnn McInnis, vice president of client services and business development at Virginia-based Carlyn & Co. Interiors + Design; B.J. Laterveer, director of the multifamily housing studio at Alpharetta, Georgia-based Wakefield Beasley & Associates; and Les Juneau, president of Atlanta-based Juneau Construction Co. Cannon Reynolds, managing director of architecture for Atlanta-based Niles Bolton Associates, moderated the panel.
Both millennials and empty nesters are driving demand for apartment space as they continue to forego homeownership. The U.S. homeownership rate was 63.9 percent in the third quarter of this year, similar to the 63.5 percent in the third quarter of 2016. The rate is up 100 basis points from second-quarter 2016 when homeownership reached its lowest level since the Census began tracking it in 1965.
A lot of planning goes into the outdoor amenity spaces, as these are often programmed to host resident events and serve as communal spots. Lutz says architects emphasize these spaces too because they provide the most visibility in terms of social media and marketing packages.
Rooftop decks have especially resonated with residents. The pools are now less traditional in terms of swimming and are mainly thought of as social gathering tools, according to McInnis. Some are as shallow as 18 inches.
Amenity spaces are also growing in size and scope as a result of smaller apartment units.
Carlyn & Co. Interiors + Design works on projects with one-bedroom units as small as 450 square feet, according to McInnis. Therefore, amenity spaces must now be large enough to accommodate activities that were once housed within the unit, such as dinner parties.
“In general, people are renting today as a lifestyle choice,” said Laterveer of Wakefield Beasley & Associates. “They’re expecting experiential and personal spaces with a backyard feel.”
Drawing inspiration from hotel properties and service-based amenities is also a design consideration for today’s apartment amenities, Laterveer added. People want to come home and enjoy the same level of experience as they would when traveling and staying at a hotel.
Retail is gateway to public
Panelists also discussed the benefits and challenges of integrating retail spaces into multifamily projects.
“The retail is being thought of as an extension of the amenities,” explained McInnis. “Rather than the door being street-facing, it may be amenities-facing, which poses a challenge for security.”
Coffee shops are a good example of multifamily design that blurs the lines between public and private spaces. During the day, the shop is likely open to the public.
“Retail planning is so deliberate now,” said Lutz. “It used to just be following the direction of the jurisdiction for the proper square footage of retail, but now it’s an opportunity to open the property up to the public. We’re trying to forge more of those types of connections.”
Man’s best friend
At least 50 percent of residents at Wakefield Beasley & Associates-designed properties have pets, according to Laterveer. This means that pet areas and dog walks are no-brainers when it comes to amenity design.
And it’s not just a tub in the back of the parking garage. Laterveer went so far as to call them spa-like spaces, with nearly 200 square feet for grooming and blow-drying.
Less drivers, more riders
A generational shift toward fewer drivers certainly affects parking ratios at multifamily communities. What this means for property design is how to incorporate drop-off areas for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
Ideally, you’ll incorporate these spaces with other areas that residents frequent, such as the mail center, said Lutz.
“It’s an integrated part of the design and something you have to think about, as [drop-off areas] can be a more efficient use of space than a parking space,” he explained.
Package delivery frenzy
Former storage space requirements of 1 to 2 square feet per resident are no longer sufficient, said McInnis. People are buying everything online, even giant objects like tires and sofas. Carlyn & Co. has worked on refrigerated storage spaces, since food deliveries have become increasingly popular.
“It’s an important conversation to have at the very beginning of the programming stages, how you’re going to manage access for the concierge, the security and the resident for package rooms,” said McInnis.
Designing space conducive to online grocery deliveries will only continue to be a discussion, especially after Amazon.com Inc.’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market earlier this year.
Large-scale deliveries are difficult to plan for and require ample square footage, said Lutz. A solution may be to direct deliveries to units and develop further security technology to accommodate that type of entry. For example, Amazon recently introduced Amazon Key, which permits the entrance of deliverymen into households that have purchased and installed the product.
Said Lutz, “We’re going to find ourselves at a bit of a loss if we’re trying to accommodate [package delivery] in a room because the online lifestyle is only going to continue to increase.”
— Kristin Hiller