Resident preferences have changed a lot during the past year, a natural reaction to pandemic-induced lifestyle disruptions. Early on, barbecue pits and pool parties gave way to Zoom Bingo, fitness centers sat idle while apartment managers provided in-unit equipment, and community lounges were eschewed while residents sought faster Wi-Fi in their apartments.
Now, as virus statistics improve, we’re in a better position to think about which new amenities should become more permanent and which of the old ones should return. The “new normal” has become a rallying cry—a vision of how people will need to live, assuming lingering risks from the current pandemic and given the dire warnings of more in the not-so-distant future. Does that necessitate remaking communal spaces into individual work pods? Are pools and fitness centers gone for good? Will we ever interact in person again?
OK, that last question is a little dramatic. Clearly, we will—it’s human nature. Humans are social beings. Hence all the Zoom meetings and parties and game nights, which are an effort to get together when we can’t do so physically. For children, that drive to be together is even stronger and critical to development—young people need to play together and they need space to run around. And as for pets—well, your cat may not care, but most dogs like to get outside and they need social interaction, too.
The challenge right now is knowing which amenities to convert and which to leave. And if you’ve got a community development underway, it’s not like you can wait to decide what offerings to incorporate. Making them flexible is important now, allowing you to adapt quickly as needed, but it’s not exactly a marketable feature: “Come live in our beautiful community, featuring an incredible lounge/coworking space/Zoom Room. We’re ready for anything!” Not so alluring, right? Plus, some features are more flexible than others.
As IvyLee Rosario discusses in “The Essentials,” future demands will incorporate a bit of something old and something new. Fitness centers are still desired—provided air filtration and surface disinfection are being addressed. Playgrounds are coming back, too. But with more people expected to work from home to a greater degree than before the pandemic arrived, Zoom Rooms and other individual workspaces outside the apartment are likely to be in demand, as are green spaces that allow for outdoor exercise, social gatherings and just taking a break to interact with nature. Such features incorporate a healthy aspect into communities that promises to be attractive for the long term.
Health, in fact, is—not surprisingly—becoming a critical consideration. But don’t forget to seek regular input from your residents. And share their responses with us—we’d love to hear them!