While generational preferences are driving many real estate initiatives today, across a range of property sectors, one commonality among the generations is attraction to interesting, entertaining and memorable destinations. For multifamily properties, creating such a sense of place means finding the right combination of initial attraction and long-term desirability.
For that reason, we opened the October celebration of MHN’s Excellence Awards and sister brand CPE’s Distinguished Achievement Awards with a panel titled “Placemaking: Building Strong Communities.” The architects and developers that spoke listed a variety of characteristics evoked by this concept. To Sara Agrest, director of interiors with Dattner Architects, it’s critical to include a high level of amenities, regardless of whether the housing is luxury or affordable. “People are asking for and we are trying to create relevant experiences for the place,” she explained.
On a more subtle level, it is also important to create a sense of community, noted Alison Novak, principal with The Hudson Cos., so “residents feel like they have a home and have neighbors.” For Charles Thomson’s firm, CetraRuddy Architecture, that was a key focus in the design of Saltmeadow in Far Rockaway, Queens, N.Y., which won the MHN Excellence Gold Award for Best New Development & Design, Low-Rise. It also sought to provide a sense of neighborhood safety and connection to both the nearby beach and the local retail scene. Design elements such as extensive use of glass help create such a connection, according to Thomson.
But both the designer and developer can take a more active role in making a place special, Novak declared. On Roosevelt Island in New York City, where the firm has developed seven apartment buildings and the award-winning student housing property The House at Cornell Tech, it has attracted frequent visitors to a recently unveiled monument.
Another way to provide that sense of specialness, according to Daniel Gehman, studio director with Humphreys & Partners Architects, is to include elements that elicit a sense of discovery and delight—something unexpected that is also natural, such as the incorporation of an existing urban trail into a mixed-use property the firm designed in Salt Lake City.
And while outside elements are being incorporated into apartment properties, so too should a growing array of technological alternatives that benefit the resident inside their unit. Increasingly, those options operate through apps and other access points that make them both accessible and customizable, while providing property managers with valuable performance metrics. Think lighting and temperature controls, security systems and on-demand communication with building management as well as nearby amenities. While renters’ willingness to pay for such convenience remains in question, its growing affordability is making it nonetheless a viable means to compete for residents.