Manny Gonzalez of KTGY Delivers New Ideas on Multifamily Design Trends that Increase Occupancy

IRVINE, CA - According to Manny Gonzalez, AIA, LEED AP and principal with award-winning national architecture and planning firm KTGY Group, Inc., developers and designers need to think outside the box when creating amenities to attract renters. "Unit details can make all the difference to increase occupancy," Gonzalez said.

AVA H Street in Washington, DC, developed by AvalonBay Communities and designed by KTGY, introduced many innovative amenity concepts targeting Gen Y preferences. "Cool sliding doors to customize living and sleeping spaces, contemporary looking kitchens, and plenty of storage options help residents live large in smaller, more efficient apartments. A tech center/electronic docking station and chalk board wall in the kitchen adds functionality. An accessorizable 'Gear Wall' near the apartment's front door can hold a bicycle and other bulky items," Gonzalez said.

AVA H Street's apartment units also feature a customizable front-door entry signs for self-expression; a walk-in closet with 12 to 16 linear feet of customizable Slatwall, expandable track lighting, and a community-provided DIY (Do It Yourself) Bucket with tools to individualize each apartment are a huge hit with renters, Gonzalez reports. "Those developments that combine ingenuity with functionality will create an important marketing advantage," added Gonzalez.

A garage door is no longer just for cars. "We used a roll-up garage door off the courtyard as the entrance to our 'Man Cave' workshop called 'The Garage' at Heritage Oaks apartments in Oakdale, Calif.; however, I have also seen a roll-up garage door used off of the living room to the patio to extend the indoor-outdoor living space and create a unique feature," said Gonzalez.

"Outdoors, renters still want a large pool and sundeck but now we are seeing the addition of cabanas, fire pits and other entertainment areas added to the mix. And, you might find the pool, not on the ground floor but on the roof, complete with lounges, a fitness center, and/or outdoor kitchen and entertainment area. Other rooftop amenities might include a clubhouse, large community garden or gardens in raised planting beds and a walking path or running track," Gonzalez said.

"KTGY designed a soccer field with a running track on top of California Baptist University's new recreation and training center in Riverside. The green roof with synthetic turf helps cool the building and reduces the building's carbon footprint," said Gonzalez.   

Residents want a high tech fitness center that looks and feels like a membership card is required. "The fitness center doesn't need to be huge but it needs to look state-of-the-art and preferably have a Yoga/Pilates studio. I saw a community that had a large flat screen TV in the studio above the mirrors and the residents could watch their favorite Yoga instructor on TV. However, some of the larger apartment communities have added a personal trainer for a fee," Gonzalez said.

Incorporating the latest technology into the community is a must. "High-speed wireless access throughout the apartment community is a given, but newer trends include keyless entries, an internet bar with PC and MAC stations, and iPod/iPad docking stations in common areas. Never without their Smartphone, Gen Y wants to receive a text message when a washer or dryer cycle is completed or an email when a package has arrived. But, what's even better, is to include an in-unit washer and dryer," said Gonzalez.

Apartment residents want to do everything online and know what is happening in their community. They want to pay their rent online, view the community's social events online, or schedule a maintenance or repair appointment online, said Gonzalez. "They also want to be connected to what is happening in their neighborhood. A large screen, 'Twitter Wall' in the lobby of AVA H  Street taps into the local culture scene streaming a constant word cloud of events and happenings at nearby restaurants, museums and various local venues," Gonzalez added.

Gen Yers are highly social and they want casual lounges and social media flex space. According to Gonzalez, a soundproof YouTube recording room hits the right note.

Gone are the days when apartment communities excluded pets from the lease. "Americans love their pets and spent $370 million alone on Halloween costumes for their pets," Gonzalez reported. "Communities are including pet spas, a 'Laundra-Mut,' and enclosed pet parks, a 'Bark Park.' Working with Facebook and developer St. Anton Partners, the KTGY-designed Anton Menlo apartments in Menlo Park, Calif., is slated to have a pet spa with doggy day care, pet walking services, and an outdoor dog park and run," Gonzalez stated.

"We are also seeing a few bike repair shops included along with bike storage in some new developments. But, what about a snowboard or surf shop in appropriate areas? It is important to consider your audience and their desired lifestyle needs and wants," asks Gonzalez.

Sustainable amenities also provide a marketing advantage. "There has been an increase of 530 percent in electrical vehicle sales 2012 to 2013. Especially in California, most new apartment communities are including at least one electrical vehicle charging station and more developments are pursuing third-party certifications. We are seeing a lot more LEED Platinum certified multifamily communities," Gonzalez reported.

"My favorite saying is a quote from Stewart Brand, author, business leader and former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, 'Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road,'" Gonzalez said.

"But, the best, most profitable amenity can be the apartment community's location. Both younger and older generations want to be located in walkable communities; within a 10-minute walk to transit and neighborhood amenities, like restaurants, entertainment, shopping, cultural events, transit and/or employment," said Gonalez. "The old adage of 'Location. Location. Location.' holds true today more than ever." 

Gonzalez will present his ideas on "Multifamily Design Trends that Dramatically Impact Occupancy" at Multi-Housing News' panel held on November 14. Gonzalez is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at various industry events and webinars and currently serves as PCBC's Co-Chair of the Multifamily Trends Forum. Gonzalez has more than three decades of experience in design, land planning and production of residential, retail, and mixed-use developments throughout the western US. With his strong interest in livable communities, he focuses on well-scaled, contextual architecture that shapes vibrant environments. Gonzalez's commitment to the industry includes serving on the NAHB Multifamily Leadership Board, 50+ Education Committee and the University of Housing as well as being on the Editorial Advisory Board of 50+ Builder. Gonzalez is based in KTGY's Santa Monica, Calif. office.

Celebrating 22 years, KTGY Group, Inc., Architecture and Planning, is a national award-winning firm providing comprehensive planning and award-winning architectural design services for residential communities, retail, hospitality, mixed-use and related specialty developments. KTGY delivers innovative solutions that reflect clear understanding of development, market trends and financial performance. Serving clients worldwide, KTGY maintains offices in Irvine, Oakland and Santa Monica, Calif., Denver, Colo., and Tysons, Va.