Community Gardens as Amenities

More and more gardens are popping up in apartment communities because green spaces are a competitive solution to increasing competition, maintaining retention, improving property value, and instilling a better sense of community.

Multifamily community gardens can attract higher-income tenants, empty nesters, and even the elderly. Costs range from $5,000-$30,000 to get started, depending on the size and features desired. The more elaborate (arbors, tool storage bins, benches, etc.), the more expensive. Managers should allot approximately $900 annually for general maintenance, which should cover seeds, plants, and supplies. You may find that residents will actually cover costs on their own through plot and equipment rental fees. Plot rentals usually range from $20-$50 annually. 

According to a New York University study (2006), community gardens have significant positive effects on surrounding property values in all neighborhoods, even low-income neighborhoods, raising property values up to 9.5 percent within five years of opening a garden.

If you’re interested in starting your own community garden, consider the following:

Establish Rules: Have a plan in place with policies and enforcement, including rules for organic or pesticide gardening.

Educate: Some properties invite landscapers or a local gardening expert to come and discuss planting techniques and upkeep, which generates continual interest. Invite on-site staff or gardening groups to come give pointers on organic gardening, composting, water conservation, etc.

Design: When planning your garden, pay attention to the layout to ensure easy accessibility. For example, raised beds are easier to take care of, help keep out pests like gophers, and work well for seniors.

Green roofs, a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop, are extremely beneficial in that they reduce temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air, thereby reducing energy usage and air pollution. Green roofs can be installed on a wide range of buildings and can be as simple as a 2-inch high covering to a fully accessible park with trees. Estimated costs start at $10-$25 per square foot, with annual maintenance costs from $0.75-$1.50 per square foot (EPA). A University of Michigan study reported that a 21,000 square foot green roof costs approximately $464,000 to install versus $335,000 for a conventional roof (2006); however, a green roof would save the building about $200,000 over its lifetime due to reduced energy needs.

If you want to take your community garden one step further, consider adding a compost bin so gardeners can utilize the rich soil. This is also an excellent opportunity to help offset waste spend by increasing diversion. Or, install a low-flow sprinkler system to help with water conservation.

Community: Your garden is a great place to showcase on a tour with a prospective tenant, host community events, or even hold contests. You can encourage residents to start their own garden society or hold a contest for the biggest tomato, all of which can be featured on your website, in newsletters, and via social media, thereby generating lots of positive buzz.

Green spaces are beneficial in many ways, but probably the most important benefit is resident satisfaction.

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