Reviving Downtown: The transformative trend of converting empty offices into vibrant residential apartments and mixed-use spaces.
Where you live isn’t simply just where you reside anymore; it is still where you sleep, eat and kick your feet up, but it is also where you work, study, play, explore and grow. Amenities offered in direct proximity of apartment units make all the difference for renters. It is critical for new residential developments to provide solutions for both personal and professional needs these days. With new trends seemingly popping up every day, there are plenty of ways that multifamily residential communities can cater to the current trends, supporting a diverse pool of people from many different backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles.
Our project teams design buildings in a wide variety of market sectors in addition to residential – including workplace, higher education, recreational, healthcare and more. This means that we see trends popping up in more than one specific type of building or space. The true benefit of this knowledge is finding ways we can use trends from one sector to benefit projects in another. We are able to apply these insights to multifamily residential to allow people to thrive within their community and attract new tenants.
Working from home is old news at this point (remember when we were all looking for a “new normal” a few years back?), but the new trend is how working from home is evolving. More people are getting the opportunity to make working from home a commonplace reality, whether they are entrepreneurs or traditional 9-5ers who are remote for part or all of the day. With this shift, residential buildings are incorporating community spaces that support many different working styles in a public shared area. Similar to coworking offices, the modern apartment complex offers a place to meet with a client informally, work in an open area amongst others, conduct a hybrid or virtual meeting or even access a small room for privacy.
Technology is a key component for making a coworking space function well in a residential building. Beyond providing the correct scale and amount of spaces for residents to use, the ease, speed and availability of technology that supports anyone working from home is essential. Other facets of the office that residents are looking for include common amenities that go one step further with personalization and control: complimentary coffee but with a few choices of creamers and other add-ons; filtered water, but also with an option for sparkling water; an enclosed phone room with a comfy chair and a floor lamp to adjust the lighting as needed, or even providing the chance to select what music is playing in the room. Control is key for creating a space that adapts to the user.
Because of our higher education studio’s experience designing for students, we have seen how the nontraditional student is affecting the way classes and continuing education have evolved. While WiFi is an expected amenity, there is also a huge need for drop-in spaces with connectivity and collaboration options that are accessible and convenient to living quarters. The “third place” notion of neither being at work nor at home resonates with the education world as well, as the modern student seeks creative places to study and collaborate with classmates. Our design teams often include study rooms as amenity spaces within student housing communities.
Community-enhancing amenities in residential buildings are arguably driven by the high level of isolation we experienced during the pandemic. Several ways that many people connected were through social media, outdoor activities and online gaming. How do these highly individualized activities translate to a community space? One example is the online gaming community. A wave of communal gaming facilities has surged in many areas of the country, as seen in the numerous locations of Belong Gaming arenas popping up that our designers have helped curate. Residential buildings can incorporate this type of amenity that would draw in potential new tenants who visit the building to play with friends. In addition to online gaming, other amenities that promote communal play include indoor and outdoor activities like golf simulators, pickleball courts, dog parks and cornhole, as well as gathering spaces like fire pits, community kitchens, movie projector screens and outdoor swings.
Smart technology and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to infiltrate the ways in which we interact with the world around us, creating the potential for highly crafted and personalized experiences in our day-to-day routines. Property management can utilize these tools if they are integrated in the leasing and tour process as well as the mail and package delivery experience. AI can inform how community events occur, ease of access to surrounding shopping areas and restaurants, and even the leasing process to help attract and retain residents to the area. If the technology and overall resident experience is clear, easy and accessible, there is a reduced need for onsite leasing offices in favor of additional units or other attractive amenities when compared with competing living accommodations in the surrounding neighborhood.
In urban areas, the neighborhood is a key amenity for a development. Most residents these days are looking for walkability around the area. In locations where wanted offerings might not be close enough to walk to, the amenities within the building can be used to fill in the gaps. In mixed-use buildings, third party tenants could offer services that enhance the living experience and can be tied to the residency with membership discounts, restaurant perks, etc. It is important to be aware of what is within walking distance.
A trend that is turning into a necessity for many people is living healthier. Healthy living is about catering to the whole person, through physical and mental health. In an effort to provide more active spaces that promote physical health, fitness rooms are becoming more detailed and distinct, including smart mirrors or specialized workout rooms like Peloton. These fitness centers can also connect to the outdoors with large operable doors for yoga on the lawn or Pilates in the park.
Beyond physical health, many people are looking for places that promote mental health, connecting with nature and disconnecting from highly stimulating or demanding jobs. Pets have also become an essential part of living and supporting mental health for many people. These days more than just having a dog wash area within the building is needed. Exterior pet parks are a necessary amenity to help tenants take care of their furry companions that help decrease stress and improve overall health. In more luxury apartment communities a pet spa may be in order.
Residential buildings that promote a caring economy with 24-hour secure access, rejuvenating and safe spaces, thoughtful materials and lighting, meaningful artwork and graphics, and an overall thoughtful resident experience will be the differentiators for multifamily buildings moving forward.
If you’d like help with your multifamily residential building designs, we are ready to take your development to the next level. We thrive on creating uniquely trend-sensitive and effortlessly timeless living spaces of many different scales and markets.