David Kennedy – Competition on MF Amenities to Increase


December 15, 2015

CHICAGO—Multifamily developers once considered it sufficient to include a pool and clubhouse in new communities, but renters and buyers alike are beginning to expect more, and 2016 should see increased competition among builders to provide unique amenities.

“We’re seeing an evolution to more emphasis on overall wellness rather than strictly entertainment and recreation, ”David Kennedy, principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning’s Chicago/Midwest office, tells GlobeSt.com. “And this is not just happening on the East Coast or West Coast; it’s a national phenomenon.”

“Our lives are so connected now that sometimes we need some separation between our home lives and hectic work lives,” he adds, and developers who can provide that separation will have a leg up on the competition.  “It’s great to have a party room, but it’s also essential to let residents have quiet spaces.”

Crescent Heights’ Walton on the Park apartment tower in downtown Chicago, for example, features a seventh-floor meditation garden. And Waterton included a new outdoor Zen garden in its redevelopment of the 1980’s-era Presidential Towers.

“We’re finding residents value substance over flash and are more likely to appreciate the many uses for a garden, such as meditation, yoga or reading, over a single-purpose space like a screening room,” says David Schwartz, chief executive officer of Waterton, which owns and manages nearly 20,000 apartments across the US. As reported in GlobeSt.com, the company recently combined its apartment and hospitality sectors, partly to help the apartment side tap into the expertise hospitality executives have in providing amenities.

Kennedy recently toured a new community where the developer reserved an entire floor for amenities.  “They could have put more units in there, but they opted not to,” and as the multifamily market continues to boom, he expects to see more developers to take this option. “After a while, all of these new buildings, even if they are in great locations, will begin to look alike, and they need someting that sets them apart.”

Related Midwest has decided to take the concept one step further for One Bennett Park, its new hybrid condo/apartment tower at 451 E. Grand Ave., and include an adjacent 1.7-acre public park. The company plans to complete the project in 2017.

“The tower and park are named after Edward H. Bennett, co-author of the Plan of Chicago, which stressed the importance of green spaces in the cityscape,” says Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest. “More than a century later, this balance is as important as ever.”