How Hospitality Fuels the Amenities Arms Race
As today’s tenants demand convenience and comfort when it comes to amenities, developers and landlords seek inspiration from the hospitality sector to deliver. We spoke with four multifamily, office and retail experts about how they’re looking to hotels to win the amenities arms race.
Fifield Cos vice chairman Randy Fifield (snapped with President Obama at last night's Bulls game) says Fifield conducts satisfaction surveys of its tenants throughout their relationship, similar to hotels, to identify best practices moving forward. She stays ahead of the curve by using analytics and focus groups in the early planning stages of its apartment projects to ID what amenities to offer and pin down the needs of her tenant base. There's an even more direct hotel correlation: Randy says apartment buildings across the country now offer guest suites rentable by the night so renters can entertain visitors. And while business centers have become sort of antiquated in hotels, they may just land in apartments—Fifield now offers private offices in some of its California properties, where up to 40% of Fifield's tenants live, work and play in their buildings, because traffic in the area is a hassle.
Waterton co-chair Pete Vilim (left, with Waterton regional marketing and leasing manager Tina Miserendino and Mayor Rahm Emanuel) says the convergence between apartments and hotels (he owns and manages both) goes beyond club rooms, coffee bars and conference tables. Apartment pricing is now dynamic, similar to hotels. The feel between hotels and apartments has also merged, providing the best product in both cases. Look to Presidential Towers in the West Loop for an example, Pete says—they were forward thinkers and built a hotel-like check-in desk, because the building was originally used for short-term corporate housing. Waterton repurposed it into a service area for residents entertaining guests.
Amata Office Solutions CEO Ron Bockstahler says the customer service influence of hospitality is translating across the industry. Commercial office tenants expect a nice fitness room and greeters who address them by name. Ron calls this the "Disney effect" and started training Amata employees by copying Disney's Magic Kingdom training program. Ron says being the best hosts for tenants gives Amata a competitive advantage.
Fitzgerald Associates Architects head of interiors Kay Wulf (left, with Joel Berman of Berman Glass Studio) says hospitality trends have now tied office and retail closer together. Fitzgerald renovated the retail component to 300 S Riverside after ownership realized the building’s lobby wasn’t being utilized properly. Fitzgerald took the building’s newsstand from the center of the lobby, moved it to the perimeter near the entrance, opened up the lobby and gave it an airport lounge feel. Kay says the influence of hotels on office and retail is every bit as strong as restaurants and cafés were a decade ago, as lobbies and storefronts have become hangout spaces. There's more soft seating and lighting, as workers need to take breaks and be part of a larger social environment.