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How Multifamily Owners Can Cater to the Northeast’s Growing Base of Life Sciences Renters

Pictured is one of the amenity spaces at ANOVA at uCity Square,461-unit apartment community in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood. As this area's population of life sciences workers grows, developers of the communities that house them are getting more attuned to the services and amenities that fit the lifestyles of this cohort of renters.

By Justin Wybenga, vice president of asset services, GMH Communities

Every day, we see the world constantly changing. Whether it’s advancements in technology, culture, arts or sciences, there are many things to look forward to as life and business return to normal.

One sector of commercial real estate that continues to experience breakthroughs is life sciences. Case in point: Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corp. announced that the organization would double its investment to $1 billion to establish New York City as the global leader in life sciences.

Justin Wybenga, GMH Communities

Justin Wybenga, GMH Communities

With the increasing demand for research and lab space comes an emerging need for innovative housing that supports the rapidly growing population of researchers, professors, graduate students and third-shift workers. Historically, amenities and services for this group have been an afterthought.

We saw a void in this space and recently launched a completely new vertical called “Innovative Living.” Innovative Living takes best practices from conventional multifamily and student housing, including cutting-edge technology and best-in-class amenities and services, and tailors those features to accommodate the specific needs of professionals and graduate and postgraduate students working or learning in major innovation hubs.

Understand Residents’ Needs

Fostering a collaborative living environment with a live-work-play lifestyle for these busy individuals is paramount. In order to provide attractive apartment communities, owners and operators need to focus on creating comprehensive and convenient services to best accommodate their residents.

A sampling of key offerings includes 24/7 concierge services; dog walking, grocery and dry-cleaning services; a variety of spacious flex and coworking spaces and soundproof office pods for confidential meetings; and cybercafés with coffee bars and beer taps.

Another important amenity is fast internet connectivity and increased bandwidth, as residents have an average of five devices that utilize internet connection to stream music, movies, games and more. To stay ahead of the curve, owners should plan to increase gigabytes as their resident bases grow to ensure they’ll always have enough bandwidth.

Other perks that will complement and add convenience to residents’ turnkey, effortless lifestyles include refrigerated delivery lockers, climate-controlled storage space, a hospitality suite for out-of-town guests and onsite car sharing. The idea is that residents, if they choose, never need to leave their building.

Offer Several Floor Plans

Many life sciences workers and learners want a comfortable place to retreat to after a long and hard day at work. Providing one-of-a-kind modern apartments and offering an array of comfortable floor plans that includes both furnished and unfurnished options is key to success. By offering micro units and one- to three-bedroom residences, landlords provide optimal flexibility, no matter the needs of your future resident.

We’ve noticed a high desirability of life sciences residents who are looking for micro units and one- bedroom apartments. These renters are willing to give up personal space for more shared amenities and services elsewhere in the community.

At properties with competitive rental rates, residents expect upscale features within their units. Designing apartments with fully integrated smart technology and complementing them with standard features such as designer bathrooms with walk-in showers, in-unit washer and dryers, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances will go a long way and give owners great returns on investment.

Location, Location, Location

Life sciences students and professionals want and need to be centrally located and in proximity to their place of employment or education. Like-minded people want to live and work near other budding entrepreneurs, innovators, healthcare professionals and graduate students to continue to foster their collaborative community.

With demanding schedules that typically require 40-plus hours of work per week, often at off-hours, this demographic prioritizes being close to their workplaces and substantially reducing commutes to maximize free time.

Whether it’s being steps away from Drexel University or University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; Brown University or Harvard in Providence/Boston; or Washington University in St. Louis, apartment owners need to build communities wherein their target demographic works to build a balanced lifestyle.

Prioritize Health and Wellness

With all generations putting more emphasis on not only their physical well-being but also their mental health, all modern apartment communities need to follow the same progressive mindset. Providing residents access to state-of-the-art communal amenities geared towards promoting healthy lifestyles and a live-work balance is key.

All of GMH Communities’ properties will be certified as Fitwell buildings, and many other owners are following suit. Offering expansive fitness centers with yoga and spin studios, courtyards with large pools and hot tubs, indoor and outdoor lounges and access to grills are amenities that will go far with future residents.

While the life sciences cohort works hard, those professionals also want to enjoy themselves and meet other people. As such, owners must ensure that they tailor their resident programming and events during off-hours. Recognizing and accommodating a work-play blend will be key to capturing your future resident base.

Listen, Execute, and Thrive

Without a doubt, the life sciences sector is booming, and it’s expected to become even more of a focus for companies and cities moving forward. As landlords, making sure you understand the needs and wants of this unique workforce is imperative to implementing tailored housing that meets their unique expectations.

By implementing new cutting-edge technology and service-oriented amenities, leaders joining this new housing sector will exceed demands and be able to best serve future residents in this thriving sector across the country.

— GMH Communities is a Pennsylvania-based multifamily development and management firm. 

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