Written by | Rick Jarvis
Several apartment developers sit down across a poker table from one another and begin to play cards. After a few hands, it begins to get serious.
“I raise. I’ll bet free parking,” says the first one.
“I see your free parking and I raise you a roof deck,” says the next.
“Oh yeah, well I see your roof deck and raise you free basic cable, a pool, 2 month’s rent, free utilities and Netflix.”
And on and on it goes.
And just when you think it can’t really go any further, someone will up the ante in a way that we have yet to see. I sometimes wonder what that next amenity could even be … haven’t we thought of everything? What’s next, free tanning beds? A full arcade? Indoor basketball? Resume writing? Spa services? Personal chef on Tuesdays? The length at which each successive owner is willing to go to squeeze an extra percentage point out of their vacancy rate seems to have few, if any, limits.
But at the end of the day, we have to wonder if it’s all worth it. Amenities are the icing, but the property is the cake. What happened to thoughtful design? What happened to location? And what happened to quality construction? And well executed management?
As the market seems to be trending towards smaller and smaller spaces supported by more and more common amenities, it makes me wonder what happened to the most American of amenities – ample space. Having common spaces in a complex dedicated to making tenant life easier is nice, but sometimes the nicest thing anyone can imagine is a bigger closet, an extra kitchen cabinet, another 3 linear feet of countertops or a bathroom big enough to turn around in.
While I understand the economic model dictates an optimal size and unit mix, I also understand that when the optimal size is the only option for tenants, then optimal becomes somehow sub-optimal. I am not sure when it is coming, but when it does, those who have built for tomorrow instead of just for today will be the beneficiaries.
The Richmond I used to know is no more and RVA has taken over … which is a good thing. I just hope those with the power to develop the next generation of properties for those who want to call RVA home for the next decade provide living options that will accommodate them as they grow, regardless of who pays for the wifi or tanning bed.