Tenants Love Bike Rooms. Bike Repair Shops? Not So Much.
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While real estate is all about location, multifamily amenities are what drive leasing activity. In Silicon Valley, multifamily developers are having to take the extra step to add that one amenity that everyone is talking about. But the next big amenity does not always work.
“Bike storage works all the time, for sure, but we thought a shared bike repair shop would be really cool: three racks, tools, people can have conversations around their bikes,” Harmonie Park principal Don Capobres said during a recent Bisnow event in San Jose. “It’s been an utter failure in the projects we’ve implemented it. No one is using them.”
He said Harmonie Park has 25 bike-share bikes in front of its building and tenants have used those more than a bike repair shop.
SummerHill Apartment Communities Executive Vice President and Managing Director Katia Kamangar said bike repair shops have not worked in SummerHill’s projects either. The same held true for Zipcar parking at some SummerHill properties. Zipcar was popular years ago, but most people use Uber and Lyft now, making those parking spots obsolete, she said.
“Anything that is super-high cost to maintain or repair and is not being used, it ultimately gets eliminated in these apartment buildings,” Kamangar said.
Kamangar said SummerHill has had to shift how it approaches electric vehicles as well. Four or five years ago, the landlord was able to charge residents for fast-charging stations. Then more employment centers started offering these stations at their properties so residents did not need premium EV chargers. Now, SummerHill has installed outlets in almost all parking spaces since residents are willing to have lower-cost, slow-charging stations.
“Some of these amenities are very trendy,” Kamangar said. “You want to try something cool, something that really catches someone’s eye. … You do want that, but you … have to have a realistic expectation that you may need to convert that space into something else.”
The Amenities That Work
While bike repair shops are being reconsidered, bike rooms with showers and storage are in demand.
“As a building-specific amenity, bikes are a big thing we’re seeing,” brick founder and principal Rob Zirkle said.
Across all project lines, except senior housing, clients tend to want large bike rooms, Zirkle said. At a project in Oakland, community leaders asked for a bigger self-service bike room that could be shared with the local neighborhood.
“Everyone is riding bikes,” Zirkle said. “When you start to think about housing being geographically bifurcated from where office is, if it’s 10 miles or less, that is totally bikable.”
He said instead of offering bike repair facilities, consideration could be made for an on-site bike repair operation where residents could drop off their bikes to be repaired by an expert.
Adding The Wow Factor
Amenities have to appeal to local professionals who often have an eye for the aesthetic, Kamangar said.
“We’re looking for the wow factor,” Kamangar said. “At the same time the wow factor has to be functional.”
Rooftop decks typically help push developments over the edge because the wow factor is the view of the hills and the surrounding area, she said. They also offer places for people to hang out.
Work pods where residents can work from home, but have access to a private room with a desk to make phone calls and do business have been popular among residents as well, she said.
Package services are popular among Harmonie Park residents, Capobres said.
“24/7 concierge is the biggest thing in three [urban] projects we’ve delivered in the last two years,” Capobres said.
This service allows residents to pick up packages whenever they can instead of waiting for the next day, he said. While it is a staffing issue and adds to operational expenses, it helps increase safety and, unlike bike repair shops, residents are using the service.