Developers And Property Managers Forced To Adjust To Growing Use Of Package Delivery
The front desk managers at Smith's Landing Apartments at Virginia Tech handle countless packages every day. None left them as perplexed as when a carrier walked in one day dragging a full-sized kayak.
Generally, kayaks are anywhere from 9 to 12 feet long, and about two and a half feet wide. Three weeks later, the plastic piece of marine equipment was still sitting in the front office at the Drucker & Falk-managed building, waiting on the student who ordered it and then left for winter break before picking it up.
Apartment managers across the country have been forced to find new ways to handle the skyrocketing volume of packages — and the increasingly diverse items — residents are getting delivered, and it is changing the way developers design buildings.
As recently as two years ago, each tenant might have one package delivered every week, said Josh Burroughs, senior development director for Swenson, a top multifamily builder in the Silicon Valley area.
Now, with widespread use of services like Amazon Prime and Google Express, busy residents are replacing routine shopping trips with home delivery and averaging more than a package per day, Burroughs said.
"The shipping movement has crossed multiple demographics," Burroughs said. "It’s not just Millennials. It's middle-aged folks and seniors that have figured it out. It just makes your life more efficient, but everyone freaks out if your package says it's delivered and it's not there. You almost rely on it."
In another one of Drucker & Falk's buildings, a tenant received a package of Omaha steaks as a gift while on a multi-week vacation, and the spoiling meat began to stink up the package room before the resident returned to claim it. Services like Blue Apron that ship fresh portioned ingredients to cook meals have been growing in popularity in recent years.
To accommodate tenants who use these services, some building managers are installing commercial-grade refrigerators in their storage rooms for residents who are not home to pick up their food deliveries.
Whether it is kayaks, steaks or more traditional delivery items, the skyrocketing volume of packages has heaped pressure on building managers, whose bosses would rather they spend their time giving tours and leasing units, rather than sorting through packages.
"Not only did leasing offices run out of space to store packages until residents could pick them up, but the hours away from leasing that package acceptance and/or delivery took was staggering," TruAmerica Multifamily chief operations officer Lynn Owen said.
Owen said Los Angeles-based TruAmerica's recent analysis of its building managers workloads found they spent 14 hours per week handling packages, which doubles around the holiday season.
To make the process more efficient, many buildings have installed automated locker systems where residents can pick up packages. The UPS or FedEx worker who drops off the packages places it in a locker of corresponding size and a notification is sent to the resident, who receives a code they can type in and open the locker.
"Automation is really the key," Bozzuto vice president Stephanie Rath said. "Being mobile and technologically connected is so valuable to our residents."
All of this creates a need for larger package rooms. In existing buildings, landlords will often repurpose a first floor janitor's closet or utility room for package storage.
Many building managers allow packages to be delivered directly to the door of a unit. Camden Property Co. banned packages in management offices in 2015 at its 169 apartment communities nationwide. A spokesperson for Camden said that policy has not changed, despite the drastic increase in package deliveries managers have dealt with since.
"We continue to investigate options for all areas that provide excellence to our residents," the spokesperson said. "Wish I had more fun facts to share, but it is really a non-issue for us."
Developers building new projects are taking the growing package volumes into consideration and designing larger package rooms with space for locker systems and refrigerators. Especially in urban infill projects or existing building redevelopments with limited space, adding more square footage for package rooms can take away from amenities like fitness centers and club rooms.
"If you've got to take an extra 50 to 100 SF of package room that you could use for foosball or a pool table, it certainly can take from there if you have limited space," Chisholm said.
The juxtaposition between the old and new style of package management can be seen clearly in Silver Spring, Md., where the Tower Cos. recently completed a 284-unit apartment building, surrounded by a community of 1950s-era buildings. The developer built a 340 SF package room into the newer building, whereas the older buildings have much smaller rooms that had been designed for other uses.
"We really took packages into account, because it was something we saw as a management issue in our other buildings," Tower Cos.' senior marketing manager Kellyn Mahan said.
The same trend can be seen on the West Coast, where Swenson is building a 1,000-bed student housing project in San Jose dubbed The Graduate.
In its older buildings, Swenson has small mailrooms and is forced to find other rooms it can convert to deal with package overflow. The package room Swenson has designed in The Graduate is twice the size of the mailrooms in its older projects. Burroughs said the development team is looking into the possibility of creating refrigerated space for food delivery. If it does set aside this space, Burroughs said he would view it more as an extra amenity, rather than something that takes away from the building's other features.
"It would be something we would promote that we have a cool-down place for your pre-packaged food delivery," Burroughs said. "I definitely think you’re going to be hearing more about this as a talking point."