OTL Leads Panel Session on Common-Area Amenities in a Post-COVID World at Crittenden Multifamily Conference in Dallas, Texas

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OTL was recently honored to lead a panel of experts in discussing common-area amenities that make sense for multifamily properties after the pandemic.

The session, which garnered 80 attendees, took place on May 18, 2021 at the Crittenden Multifamily Conference at The Westin Galleria Dallas in Dallas, Texas. Moderated by OTL’s vice president of business development Barry Caylor, the panel included OTL’s director of creative design Chris Roy; Jodi House, principal of TBG Partners, Inc.; Evan Beattie, senior principal and chairman/CEO of GFF, Inc.; and Mike Levkulich, principal landscape architect with Bud Creative.

The panel covered the many challenges that multifamily stakeholders will face in a post-COVID world, including keeping occupants healthy and safe in the common areas of their apartment communities, providing amenities that are aesthetically pleasing and that most or all residents can enjoy, incorporating common amenities that provide cost savings and drive up ROI, and finding amenities that promote sustainability.

One of the key takeaways from the event was what the experts learned about multifamily common amenities from COVID. Instead of large gatherings, where the risk of viral transmission is heightened, the trend is now toward downsized get-togethers, which highlights the importance of creating several spaces within a multifamily community for these scaled-down, safer gatherings.

For multifamily stakeholders, this trend points to the importance of adding outdoor amenities that achieve placemaking, such as multiple small, intimate pocket parks placed throughout each complex. These parks are best enhanced with beautiful landscaping and artful fountains that combine reduced water with high-quality audible and visual effects. Rather than being larger than life, these amenities create a warm, intimate ambiance that elevates multifamily communities while enabling residents to gather safely in a relaxing and beautiful environment.

Other amenities that will help multifamily investors triumph in the face of post-COVID challenges include incorporating flexible common-use areas, as well as finishes, fixtures, and materials that are easy to clean and sanitize and/or incorporate self-sanitizing and anti-microbial properties. Also recommended by the panelists are increasing the amount of and access to bicycle storage at apartment complexes, incorporating landscaping throughout the property, and adding outdoor amenities such as trails and bike paths. These types of amenities significantly boosts the value of these properties.

Outdoor amenities help multifamily stakeholders provide what apartment renters want while helping these investors meet their goals. To start, outdoor activities are safer and more effective at preventing the spread of illness than indoor activities, which keeps tenants healthier. In addition, outdoor amenities including water features reduce energy and operating costs, which keeps rental rates competitive, and they beautify apartment communities while alleviating stress. Further, water features in particular can be sustainably integrated into building systems to reduce HVAC load and recycle water. Integrating amenities so that they are multi-functional in this way helps achieve sustainability goals and increases ROI.

The final part of the session discussed how indoor/outdoor amenities save multifamily stakeholders money in both the long and short term. In addition to helping attract and retain tenants, these amenities create a unique sense of place that diminishes vacancies and tenant turnover costs. Designing with flexibility and future needs in mind can enable these amenities to be easily adapted over time.