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The Amenities Luxe Renters Really Want

By Amy Zimmer | March 3, 2015 8:05pm
 Landlords are looking for ways to make sure their amenities get used.
Amenities in Luxe Rentals: It's all about classes and clubs
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BROOKLYN — What do tenants at new luxury rentals want?

Book clubs, poker tournaments and cooking classes.

Those were the most requested group activities from residents at 66 Rockwell Pl., a 42-story, 326-unit high-rise in booming Downtown Brooklyn.

"We want to be reactive to what tenants want," said Andrew Levison, director of asset management and operations of the Dermot Company, which manages the year-old glassy tower with roughly 20,000 square feet devoted to indoor and outdoor common space.

"What we're trying to do is enliven the space and create a sense of community," he added. "It's a little awkward to say, 'Hey, I'm looking for friends,' but if we create a time and place, [it's easier for them to] build relationships with their neighbors."

It's no longer enough to simply devote thousands of square feet of a building's real estate to amenities like state-of-the-art gyms and playrooms. Now, many management companies of luxury buildings across the city are taking next steps: surveying their tenants to find out what they want and then programming classes and events based on their desires. Some buildings are hiring staffers who act like cruise ship directors, running a full schedule of activities that bring tenants together.

Landlords hope it will keep tenants happy and turnover rates low, since fewer vacancies help a building's bottom line.

At 66 Rockwell, where one-bedrooms run more than $3,300 a month — and there's a roughly $600 annual fee to use the amenities, residents said — a full-time amenities manager is overseeing the building's common spaces.

"Quite frankly," Levison said, "rents are very expensive in New York City, and we want to make sure people are getting value for what they're paying for."

The building will launch a book club this month, with residents taking turns as host, picking the book and leading the discussion; a poker tournament will take place later in the year; and the building is cooking up plans for workshops in the lounge with a chef's kitchen, Levison said.

The building is also partnering with the nearby Mark Morris Dance Group on fitness classes like Kukuwa, an African dance workout; Soca, a Mediterranean dance workout; and yoga. It hopes to work with the nearby Brooklyn Academy of Music on developing a series of lectures or film screenings, and has been happy that its tenants have been organizing touch football games using the building's communal sports equipment, so tenants don't have to keep such stuff in their closets.

And while rentals like this may be catering to the whims of its 20- and 30-something singles, others are focusing on family offerings, too.

Michael Gubbins, vice president of residential management for the Albanese Organization, said residents in the 293 apartments at the Solaire and 252-unit Verdesian — both luxury eco-friendly rentals in Battery Park City with many young families — have been clamoring for a class called "creative play," which focuses on improving motor skills for infants and toddlers through arts and crafts and music.

It's the most popular of the 27 children's classes and 40 adult classes that take place for both buildings each month, Gubbins said. And the multiple offerings of creative play are scheduled around nap times, as per many new moms' requests on the building's tenant surveys, said Gubbins.

The buildings also added pre-natal and post-partum stretching classes, Gubbins said, noting the building has seen more than 400 newborns since the Solaire opened in 2003.

"Residents meet other residents through their children," he said. "It's been a great driver in bringing referrals to our buildings."

He said turnover was "low" with less than a third of apartments vacated each year.

Being "more sensitive to tenants needs" has helped cut turnover from 35 percent to 25 percent over the last three years for the firm TF Cornerstone, its executive vice president Sofia Estevez said.

The company is joining the amenities arms race at buildings rising at 606 West 57th St. on the West Side and 33 Bond St. in Downtown Brooklyn, adding screening rooms, basketball courts and children's playrooms with stroller parking. It's also looking at ways to add programs to its current properties.

The company just signed a contract for a puppet theater company to do a series of performances in the children's playroom at the six buildings City waterfront on Center Boulevard, Estevez said. She also just okayed an evening event in the lounge where a local salon owner will come set up a dry bar to do blowouts and nails while tenants can sip cocktails.

"You don't even have to put on a coat on," Estevez said. "We have so many people who work at home and they can just get a change of scenery without leaving their building. It really expands your apartment."