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Are Seattle developers in touch with what renters want? PART 2

A rooftop deck atop a Seattle apartment building (Photo by erocsid, CC Images)
LISTEN: Are Seattle developers in touch with what renters want in an apartment building? PART 2

New apartment buildings are popping up all over Seattle and, in order to compete, developers are adding all sorts of amenities to lure in tenants. There are rooftop chicken coops and beer brewing rooms and rock climbing walls. But while residents-to-be are wooed by these fancy features, but often don’t use them after moving in.

So who decided that common spaces and amenities belong in every new building?

Liz Dunn owns the Seattle real estate development company Dunn and Hobbs LLC. She says some of the developers behind these big projects don’t live here and most likely pick up ideas at conferences and repeat them in buildings across the country.

“They’re probably sitting in the suburbs of Phoenix imagining, you know, in rainy Seattle the millenials need a built-in movie theater because they have this out of touch idea of what an Amazon millennial employee does with their free time or what amenities they need. Like these mixers, these social hours. You know, on Capitol Hill you can walk right out your door and all of that is right there. The world is your oyster! So why on earth do you need the building manager to arrange your social life for you?”

Dunn thinks Amazon actually does know millenials, which is why they plopped their offices right in the middle of the city, so people can live close to where they work and play, as opposed to living and playing at work. She thinks the common spaces and amenities are all about marketing and hooking the tenant on a fantasy.

“I think it’s one of those things that developers show off about their project when they’re presenting to the neighborhood. For some reason, that I do not understand, neighborhoods like when buildings include common space. It is just a big waste of space and we should be encouraging people to go outside their door and gather at the brew pub down the street. I think it’s a really outdated idea from about 20 years ago.”

But Jim Goldberg, a principal at Red Propeller, a Seattle real estate consulting and marketing firm, thinks amenities can be successful if they’re purposefully tailored to a specific population. His prime example is True North, a South Lake Union apartment building for outdoor enthusiasts.

“Basically if REI were a building. When you live in an apartment building and you go camping, where do you bring your wet, musty tent home to? So, there’s a tent drying rack, a gear rental program, a trailhead room with books and trail mix. People can come down and plan their next northwest outdoor adventures. The common area on the roof features a pizza oven. The spaces that have purpose and story definitely have a lot of usage and a lot of value to the residents.”

Chasten Fulbright is a principal at the real estate consulting company Blant and Turner. He says 60 to 70% of a building can be new Seattle residents, so they try and encourage community. When programming events, there is one crucial component:

“Usually if you provide some sort of adult beverage, that will keep them around for longer.”

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