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Gensler Design Exchange

The Gensler Design Exchange creates a dialogue between design experts, creative trendsetters, and thought leaders to discuss how we shape the future of cities.

Mar 15, 2018

Are Millennials Really Fueling the Amenities Arms Race|An interview with Peter Armstrong

Millennials may have caused a 31 percent uptick in houseplant sales in 2016, but are they also responsible for the “amenities arms race” happening in urban centers across America? According to Peter Armstrong, Vice President at The Georgetown Company, the answer is simply: no. It turns out that this much hyped generation isn’t so different from their Baby Boomer or Generation X predecessors when it comes to choosing where and how to live, and many Millennials may not even have the disposable income to live in the trendiest areas of town.

Gensler’s Residential Practice Area Leader Phil Esocoff had a conversation with Peter to talk about how amenities in residential apartment spaces can contribute to increased well being across generations, how developers and leasing companies are reimagining what amenities can be, and which amenities will stand the test of time.

Rooftops and gyms and community pools – oh my!

The Washington Post recently reported on a National Apartment Association study that surveyed 100,000 individuals across 35 U.S. states on which amenities in modern apartments provide the highest return on investment for owners and operators, and which are the most popular among tenants in apartment communities. The results found that half of the top 10 offerings centered around bringing people together, favoring smaller units that allow for larger club rooms and common areas.

In Phil’s conversation with Peter, the two discuss how, in fact, communal activities like discounted gym classes within residential buildings and the vibrancy of the neighborhood outside are becoming increasingly attractive amenities for tenants as opposed to more traditional offerings.

Phil: You claim to be an aging millennial… What do you think the future of millennials will be in buildings as they age?

Peter: Oftentimes, when you hear the word millennial used in media, it... feels a bit of a slur, so I'm here to speak on behalf of all of us, that we're not snake people. We're not aliens. We're just the next generation coming down the line. I think there's a lot of obsession in the general media about millennials and their demographics, and their choices, and how that's affecting all facets of our society, culture, and economy.

The building industry is no different, but I think [millennials are] attracted to the same things that we all generally are… There are plenty of buildings in town that everyone thought would have an entirely millennial market, and you have plenty of people in there well beyond their upper 30s that are attracted to living in a great building that has efficient layouts with a high-quality finish. It's not just millennials who like the rooftop experience. It's not just millennials who want a nice gym. I think it's most people in an urban setting, so I don't lose a lot of sleep over whether XYZ project is going to be the coolest, hippest shiny object that's going to attract the millennial.

Phil: Do you think it's more a taste-culture issue? Because I think there are people who like to live in buildings of a certain character and layout and live in certain neighborhoods, and those people could be of any age.

Peter: I think that it's much more driven by cultural factors and a taste preference than it is a pure age and cohort. I think there's a certain type of person who's really attracted to the vibrancy of an urban environment, and... there are certain millennials that like that, and there's certain people that are Generation X and above that like and are attracted to the same experience. It's much more neighborhood-driven, and about what's going on outside the building, in the neighborhood, within six blocks. It's got to work for the person's lifestyle, right? It's got to be convenient to get to and from work. It's got to fit the budget.

I think you're just much better off focusing and making sure that you're building a great product that has the elements that are going to attract all the people that want to be in that environment rather than trying to design a product and obsessing over whether you need a Twitter wall to drive tenant attraction and tenant retention. I think you don't need those types of gimmicks. You just focus on a great building with high-quality, nice finishes in a good location, and you're going to be just fine.

Listen to the full conversation with Phil and Peter now on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and Libsyn. To learn more about Tim’s work at Legacy New Ventures Consulting, please visit the company's website.

As always, thanks for tuning in!