Web Feature: Implementing Creative Ideas at Your Community

Property managers find new ways to facilitate interaction among residents.

Inflatable Movie Screen at Poolside

New York–A tough economy is a great time for the birth of new ideas. In one of the most competitive real estate markets in decades, property managers have been compelled to come up with new ways to attract residents and retain existing ones, and also provide them with new avenues of entertainment and interaction. Creating a sense of community has become one of the most important things a property manager can do.

Resource Residential, which owns and manages 52 properties, from Portland, Maine to Los Angeles, installed inflatable movie screens at poolside areas at all its properties. “Everyone was beginning to cut back on their frivolous spending—going out for movies etc. so I was looking for a way to provide something different to our residents and also try to build a better sense of community that includes the whole family,” Harlan Krichman, president Resource Residential, tells MHN.

The salt-water swimming pools at Resource Residential’s properties provided an excellent location for the inflatable screens. “If we could find an outdoor movie system, we could turn our swimming pools into dive-in theaters! And, quite frankly, no one else was doing this,” says Krichman. He says the inflatable screens also provided a great way to utilize the pools. “It shows off our pools and brings people together. Building a sense of community is important to us because if our residents are happy in their community, they will make friends and start to build bonds.” The movies are family friendly so the whole family can come out for the event. “They bring their rafts and sit in their tubes while watching the movie,” he adds.

Dog Park at Legacy at Willow Bend

The area next to the swimming pool is mainly where Resource Residential screens the movies and sporting events. But on occasion—in case of Sunday morning cartoon shows for example—the screens will be set up indoors. Krichman purchased Open Air Cinema’s CineBox systems for each of the Resource Residential properties last year. The system includes a giant 12’X7’ screen, which inflates in seconds, along with a digital projector, speakers, mixer and DVD player.

Legacy at Willow Bend is a senior housing community spread across 28 acres in Plano, Texas, decided to make the whole community pet-friendly. It has one dog park that is ready and functional and another one under construction. Michael Ellentuck, president of The Legacy Senior Communities and a dog lover, understood that active seniors looking to make a transition to life-care communities, who are also pet owners, often face a dilemma. “They can’t simply leave their pets behind. I know how important it is, having been a dog owner myself,” says Ellentuck.

Even though the campus is large, it wasn’t a practical idea to let dogs run all over it. They could get lost and their owners could certainly not chase after them. So a dog park was a great idea. In addition, the community also has themed events for dogs—a yappy hour—when residents bring their dogs to the community bar, Gatsby (named after Ellentuck’s dog who passed away recently.) Dogs are allowed in common areas of this community around the year and the concierge desk always has a bag of treats for the dogs. “They really are a part of the community. We’ve embraced the idea of pets being a part of our community. We’ve invested real dollars to make their lifestyle a good one,” says Ellentuck. He is now building an enclosed structure on the dog park to be outside but avoid extreme heat or cold.

Lincoln Property Co.’s new project, The Goodwynn at Town: Brookhaven opened last year in the Atlanta metro area with the aim to give residents a resort-like feeling. The community holds several resident events such as the weekly continental breakfast.

“In addition, once a month, we have a chef come in and create a special breakfast for the staff,” Mary CookDetweiler, property manager at the Goodwynn, tells MHN. “Residents are lined up every Saturday to get their breakfast! Our chef also does a cooking class for the residents once a month. Each class has a certain theme.”

Residents also get access to a free personal training session in the gym. “We offer this service free of charge to the residents. We have the trainers for several hours a couple of days per week. Residents can book appointments and have one-on-one training work outs. “We have many amenity areas at this property and we use them to hold various interactive events for the residents,” she says. “The idea behind all these efforts is to make residents feel like they are at a resort which also has the feel of a community.”

The community has purchased Bocce Ball equipment and a tennis “lobster” (a machine that shoots tennis balls so you can practice solo) with rackets. Residents can check these out and use it on the Sky Garden.

CookDetweiler says, “It’s amazing to see how many people come for these events. I was blown away with how everyone was getting along, getting to know each other—that feeling of community.” She says the property is getting great word of mouth publicity because of all these events.

As for new ideas they are looking at in the future, CookDetweiler says, “There is nothing that we won’t look at. Of course, some are more cost prohibitive than others but we weigh all our options. We always throw any ideas out there and see if they work.”

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