The patio and pool deck at SoHo West, a recently opened project in Jersey City by Manhattan Building Co. — File photo
We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle this month’s question.
Here’s what they had to say.
Lance Blake, president, Rotwein+Blake (Livingston)
As architects and interior designers, we see design trends current and long term not only reflect the buyer or renter’s current lifestyle but evolve and morph as we create new iterations to meet the changing demographics and lifestyles that make them relevant now and into the future. It is critical to understand who we are designing for and where that will create the program for the building design and amenities, whether they be for empty-nest boomers, Gen-X or millennials; suburban, urban or transit-oriented semi-urban. Each demographic sector values design and amenities differently.
For example, we are seeing evolving trends for Gen-Xers and millennials putting a high value on concierge-style amenities, such as housekeeping, dry cleaning, dog walking and grooming and childcare. Millennials are willing to trade space for the urban lifestyle with more control over technology and the sharing culture — such as car and bike sharing — and the ability to sub-rent through Airbnb on a limited basis, urban farming, etc. In a generation where most communication comes through our devices, millennials are hungry for spaces to socialize and connect that create a sense of community. Boomers, on the other hand, value more space, as many downsize from the homes they lived in for decades where storage and extra room for children and grandchildren are a premium.
In all cases, developers are upping their game in the amenity race to attract tenants. Gyms are no longer just places to exercise — they are incorporating rock-climbing walls, spa/massage facilities, yoga and wellness classes. Business/tech centers are designed to promote collaboration outside the unit in fashion of a WeWork-type space and social spaces have the look and feel of a luxury boutique hotel.
Louis Mont, chief operating officer, Manhattan Building Co. (Hoboken)
In our experience, there’s been a continued and accelerating pace with which millennial and empty-nesters are searching for resort-style amenities in our buildings, including our most recent rental project — Soho Lofts in downtown Jersey City. Empty-nesters are trading in lawnmowers for pool decks and fitness centers. We’re finding there are many more people working from home and have focused on including more conference rooms and leisure business areas in our buildings for their use. Upscale, full-featured fitness centers are high on the list due to convenience and the ability to cancel outside gym memberships. Our outdoor facilities provide amenities such as pools, fire pits, barbeque areas and outdoor theaters. But, equally as important are the ambiance, theme and finishes used to create these spaces.
Providing an upscale, resort-style, community-based environment allows residents to be proud of where they live. This, in turn translates into tenant retention and increased referrals to buildings.
Erica Godun, studio manager, interior, architecture & design, Ware Malcomb (Woodbridge)
The current multifamily cycle is being driven by location and generational preferences.
In densely populated urban centers, unit square footage is shrinking and the ultimate draw is location. In some instances, 350-square-foot micro units are gaining popularity. The occupant has access to everything needed in walking distance.
In suburban areas, the amenitized community is on the rise. Millennial occupants are more social in nature and common area amenities lend to a communal lifestyle. This results in unit square footage decreasing and shared spaces increasing.
With the rise of amenities, the real question is: Are they being used? Developers are beginning to study and analyze these shared spaces in terms of usage and functionality. As the current multifamily cycle continues, there will be an emphasis on more focused amenity design. The ultimate goal is to design a community where the occupant does not need or want to leave.
David J. Minno, president, Minno & Wasko Architects And Planners (Lambertville)
As we may be nearing the top of a long multifamily expansion period, we are starting to see our clients and their lenders becoming more cautious in terms of project or phase size. This translates into smaller projects and/or smaller phases of a larger project. With many subcontractors at the limits of production, we see some design trends that attempt to limit on-site labor, such as precast parking vs. poured-in-place concrete, panelized building components and full modular construction.
With respect to building amenities, we have a highly competitive market with many projects coming on line at the same time. Developers see the need to compete with their amenity packages to attract that renter or buyer who is on the fence about which project to choose. In urban or transit locations, we are seeing small unit sizes coupled with much more robust amenities. In more suburban/exurban areas, larger unit sizes are used to attract tenants who desire more space after accepting a longer commute.