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Real Estate Aphrodisiacs

Washington DC

We've said this before, and we'll say it again: Property Management is sexy. Why? No matter where we are in the cycle, it keeps the money coming in. And now another example: Bike racks. (Come swoon with us at our big Property Management Summit on Thursday at the Mayflower.)

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This is one of the Tower Cos’ newest bike rooms at 1909 K St. Property management VP Debbie Webb, who will be speaking at our event, says office clients can roll from the street right into an enclosed room with HVAC in the garage that includes a changing area, lockers, a repair station, and an interactive flat screen with maps of city and suggested routes. 

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Debbie, whose sustainability colleague talked to bike shops to evaluate the best racks, says more executives are starting to bike to work. Many of these bikes are expensive ($10,000 is not unheard of) and need more care than a standard rack in a corner of a parking garage. Debbie is also talking to Riide, a DC company developing electric bikes, about making some available to clients.

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Property managers are also activating lobbies, says Julie Smith, who runs Bozzuto’s property management operation. Given that 70% of renters are single, open communal areas need WiFi and comfortable places to sit, says Julie, who will also speak at our event. Developers are getting away from having club rooms on the top floor that people forget about, she adds.

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Julie, whose company manages 50,000 units in 200 buildings from DC to Boston, including Arlington's Bennett Park seen here, says online shopping is also driving property managers to set up bigger package areas. (Good thing after NBC’s report this morning about theft from doorsteps.) Some buildings are installing lockers and others are putting in special rooms and systems. 

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Residential buildings are having to incorporate more community activities since many living the DC area have moved here recently. They want social interaction with their neighbors, says Julie. That means property managers are setting up more events in the building like wine tastings, cooking classes, exercise classes and lectures.

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Donaldson Group president Carl Einsel manages 14k apartments in all classes, but the company’s bread and butter is B and C buildings. It doesn’t matter the level of renter, they still want amenities. His challenge is providing them in places that may not have a lot of space. The company recently turned unoccupied apartments in one of its Forestville properties into a fitness center, a business center, and an after-school multi-purpose room. Sure it’s expensive to take units out of rotation, says Carl, but it helps with resident retention in the long run. And it’s far less expensive than building a new facility. 

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Lerner commercial property managing director Scott Mead says fitness centers have become a standard amenity in office buildings. A newer trend in suburban locations is the installation of a vending market. Scott calls it “traditional vending services on steroids.” The market installation is scaleable (from a 20 ft. linear nook to a full room) and allows employees to buy fresh sandwiches, drinks, coffee, and other goodies using self-checkout. Scott says it’s more economical than installing a full-service deli and it works well in areas where food options are not plentiful.

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Retail amenities are focused on making a “day of it” for shoppers, says Scott. The thought is to extend each shopping trip or "dwell time" as well as spending opportunity. Recent renovations at Lerner's Dulles Town Center (seen here) include a sports-themed toddler play area, a plush shoppers lounge, banquet seating in the food court, and upgraded soft seating. 

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All these amenities cost more and require more space, but they’re necessary to keep competitive, say our speakers. They want to charge some of the highest possible rents for high quality amenities but residents don’t want to be nickel and dimed. So they won’t pay a monthly fee for a fitness center like this one at Donaldson's Regency Pointe or to get WiFi. Carl says the DC market hasn’t seen rent increases, so the focus is on driving down renter turnover. “If the guy down the street isn’t charging for amenities, you’ll lose every time,” he adds. Hear more about the latest, greatest in property management at our summit this Thursday at The Mayflower. Sign up here