Outdoor Space, Home Offices, and Health Perks Will Dominate Amenities in 2021
Before 2020, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a buyer intent on learning every detail of a building’s cleaning regimen and air filtration technology. Now, these kinds of questions are commonplace.
“We’re seeing a higher concentration on cleanliness and sanitation as the most important thing,” said Andrew Barrocas, CEO of MNS Real Estate in New York City. “Making sure everything is sanitized, asking if there are doors that open electronically or touchless functions.”
As with so many other aspects of day-to-day life, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape in luxury development, with many high-end buyers and renters still stuck at home, and changing their priorities.
“There are three things in buildings that are important: space, privacy and safety,” said Lauren Witkoff, executive vice president of New York-based investment and development firm The Witkoff Group. “Amenity spaces are becoming more important, too, because if you’re stuck at home all day, you want to get out of your apartment.”
In some ways, however, the amenities landscape hasn’t changed as dramatically as one might think.
Co-working spaces and larger outdoor areas were trending well before the pandemic arrived, for instance, as was health-focused programming ranging from boutique workout spaces to more targeted wellness services.
“I do think anything related to health is a long-term trend,” said Leonard Steinberg, chief evangelist at Compass. “The luxury consumer has a great appreciation for luxury that isn’t just cosmetics and fluff. They’re looking for substance and authenticity, and health is the ultimate substance and authenticity.”
In 2021, then, buyers can expect amenity programs to focus on practical, quality-of-life upgrades ranging from increased outdoor space and natural light to safe and private office spaces to touchless technology and package delivery to, yes, air filtration and Covid-19 prevention.
Here’s what the next year of luxury amenities has in store:
Outdoor Spaces Get Larger, More Carefully Curated
After months spent mostly stuck inside, fresh air and outdoor space have become the center of many buyers’ apartment searches.
“In the past, we always joked that everybody wants to know if there’s a roof deck, but never uses it,” said Lisa K. Lippman, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens in New York City. “But roof decks now get used, it’s become much more important to people. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your building, at least you can be outside.”
New-construction buildings were already putting increased focus on outdoor spaces prior to this abrupt change in demand, offering small on-site parks, multiple outdoor areas per building, and a variety of seating and activity options.
At Front and York, a new condo development in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, “We have a half-acre park in the center of the building, and on level eight, there’s going to be an expansive amount of outdoor programming,” said Jason Schreiber, principal at CIM Group, one of the building’s developers. “There will be an outdoor pool, cinema, fireplace lounge, a barbecue grill. Those are really resonating with buyers.”
Developments across the U.S. are putting a similar focus on wide open spaces. At Villa Valencia, a forthcoming development in Coral Gables, Florida, “Our units average 1,000 square feet of open terrace space, we have a public park that we’re developing on-site, and there’s an enormous amenity deck and wellness center that’s both indoor and outdoor,” said Rishi Kapoor, CEO of developer Location Ventures.
Watermark, a new luxury rental in Washington, D.C., will feature a roof deck with an infinity pool, seating, fire pits, and grills, as well multiple patios on lower levels, an outdoor dog run, and a boardwalk along the river.
Outdoor space is a particular draw for families, and buildings like 77 Greenwich in lower Manhattan are including dedicated children’s play areas among their outdoor options.
With winter lockdowns looming in some cities, expect to see heat lamps, fire pits, and other efforts to ensure that outdoor areas can remain a year-round amenity.
“The Centrale [in midtown Manhattan] has designed an amenity program which caters to the four seasons of New York City living,” said Susan de França, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing. “There’s a double-height entertainment lounge which opens to an outdoor covered area, and behind that is a dog-friendly park where owners can take their pets to run around in a safe environment.”
“Any opportunity to identify spaces where one can live and be with their neighbors and feel safe is definitely important,” Ms. de França added.
Giant Gyms Get Swapped for Private Rooms
While buildings with larger exercise areas have gotten creative by spacing out machines, cleaning rigorously, and instituting capacity limits and mask mandates, the future of in-building fitness lies in smaller, separate spaces that offer both privacy and safety.
“In several buildings you have gyms with multiple rooms—one for weights, one for cardio, one for stretching, one for pilates,” Mr. Steinberg said. “All these different compartments are much more attractive now than just one big open space.”
Both existing and new construction buildings are breaking up gym space into rooms that can be repurposed for a variety of personalized workouts.
“What we’re going to see in new buildings is a switch to sort of smaller, more unique and personalized spaces whether it’s a yoga room, pilates room, maybe a squash court,” Ms. Lippman said. “The trend will be away from large gyms, and more toward smaller spaces that can be reserved for whatever the person wants.”
And just as outdoor terraces are expanding into larger spaces, “Gone are the days of people putting fitness centers in basements,” said Ryan Serhant, real estate broker and founder and CEO of SERHANT, based in New York City. “At 101 West 14th Street, we took what could have been a great apartment on the second floor and put amenities there, so you get great light.”
Expect to see more pools, as well, even in New York City where they tend to be a relative rarity. At The Smile, an East Harlem luxury rental building designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, in addition to a rooftop pool, “we added these private hot tub and grill areas where you can have your own little party,” said David Blumenfeld, Principal of Blumenfeld Development Group (BDG). “It’s a nice way to create that hotel environment.”