With more high-earning tech workers moving to the Seattle area every day, apartment buildings are trying to woo them with head-turning amenities.
A report released earlier this year from the U.S. Census Bureau said the Seattle metro grew by 1,100 people per week from 2010 to 2016.
Jim Goldberg with Red Propeller, a real estate development marketing firm, said in the industry the competition for the best apartment amenities is known as the “amenities arms race.”
Developers say one goal of the amenities is to give those new to the area a sense of community.
“With the employment driver in the city that’s bringing in new demand and so the apartments and most of the new development is really responding to that demand,” said Goldberg.
Red Propeller said the process usually starts three years ahead of the apartment building’s opening. First they want to define who their target audience is, so they research who will likely want to live there. Then they dream up the ideas with architects and designers through brainstorming. All parties work through potential costs to make sure the amenities are realistic – and then building can begin.
Goldberg said their ideas are not as random as some might think.
“For us, when we develop a real estate strategy, we work to be very focused,” he said. “(There’s a) variety of demographics segments, but we look for commonalities and threads for what we call psychographics and mindset drivers that would tie those audiences together.”
Goldberg explained psychographics are the values that drive the audience to buy.
For instance, in an upcoming Washington D.C. project, Red Propeller is trying to weave seemingly different population segments like college students, empty nesters, and divorced dads together. They’re doing this by trying to appeal to the targeted audience’s love of the area’s park and food culture.
“This is a really aspirational project,” Goldberg said in a Red Propeller meeting in June. “Whether it’s a student transitioning into their first adult home, whether it’s the maturing downsizing audience or those growing their families.”
'Best and greatest'
“The market right now is booming,” said Kathi Williams of developer Security Properties. “You have to think outside the box and offer amenities that you think will make you the best and greatest.”
Security Properties is putting the finishing touches on the Kinects Tower, which is located in Denny Triangle at the corner of Minor Avenue and Stewart Street.
Williams said the company is trying to make a statement with Kinects Tower’s penthouse pool on the 41st floor. The pool area takes over one-half of the top floor and is enclosed with glass, giving residents a view of the Space Needle, downtown, and Puget Sound. The rest of the top floor is an open-air rooftop with views of South Lake Union.
“We have a panoramic view of Seattle and the mountains and the water,” she said. “This is enough to set us apart – to have and build a community with the people who are going to live here at Kinects and this will be a place where they want to come.”
Air conditioning, a rock wall – and a speakeasy?
Brian Runberg of the Runberg Architecture Group said the design of Juxt in South Lake Union was a nod toward changing industry. There are elements of nearby MOHAI and of the neighborhood’s newer technology sector. Juxt is also home to a speakeasy hidden behind a wall on the eighth floor. Residents can use the speakeasy to entertain guests.
Across Dexter Avenue is an apartment building named True North. It’s geared toward outdoor enthusiasts and features a rock climbing wall for residents.
Another Runberg Architecture Group design recently opened in the University District. Augusta Apartments is a Vulcan development that features air conditioning units in each apartment – a rarity due to Seattle’s typically mild climate. Augusta also features a rooftop common area, a fitness center and adjoining basketball court, and curated artwork lining the walls and meeting rooms.
Can amenities be affordable?
Runberg said while most of the headline-grabbing amenities are at market-rate apartments, he said more affordable housing communities are trying to incorporate amenities as well.
He mentioned Marion West, a property run by the Low Income Housing Institute and geared toward formerly homeless youth, has a rooftop common area with an urban garden.
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