CHICAGO, IL—Tenants in luxury multifamily properties are looking for experiential amenities that fit changing lifestyles, or which support and reinforce personal values, according to two executives who specialize in designing unique amenities for these properties. Randy Fifield is chairwoman of Fifield Realty, overseeing design, marketing and execution of Fifield apartment projects in Chicago and for Century West Partners in Los Angeles, both of which have 3,000 apartment units in development. Tara Hovey, president and COO of Optima, has led the capitalization and financing of more than $1 billion in real estate, including construction financing for new developments, recapitalizations and building dispositions.

Q: Amenities are often seen as a differentiating factor in rental communities, but many times the amenities are basically the same—pool, clubhouse, lounge area—what different types of amenities are being explored now? What’s driving this?

Randy Fifield: Right now, savvy multifamily developers are adding more spaces for remote working and co-working, as well as ensuring that spaces have a flexible design and can be shifted quickly from one use to another. And while today’s residents expect conveniences, like the ability to set up a home office from common spaces throughout the building, they’re also seeking programming, services and amenities that offer an experience. They want something they can’t get elsewhere, whether it’s Pilates personal training or a gaming room. At 727 West Madison, a luxury apartment building Fifield has co-developed in Chicago’s West Loop with owner F&F Realty, we have a few examples of these unique amenities and services. The most notable is the Sky Lounge on the building’s 45th floor, which is the highest space in the West Loop and offers extraordinary city views from floor-to-ceiling window walls. We haven’t announced details, but it’s going to be a lounge and entertainment space unlike any other in the neighborhood—and it will belong exclusively to the residents of 727 West Madison. With interior design by Karen Herold of Studio K., who is recognized nationally for her work in the restaurant and hospitality industry, we are offering residents something distinctive and memorable in the city’s hottest downtown neighborhood.

Q: If you had to pick an amenity that has been a game changer for the rental market, what would you say that is? Why has it made such an impact?

Randy Fifield: One that is close to my heart is the evolution of pet amenities and services in buildings. A decade ago, many developers still viewed pet amenities as an afterthought. But as apartment demand grew rapidly, so did the need for buildings that understood renters’ deep connections to their pets. When bigger buildings in downtown neighborhoods began to value that pet culture, more people saw they could have the convenience of living downtown without sacrificing the day-to-day quality of life for their pets. Accommodating pet owners is now critical to a building’s success and to renter satisfaction. For example, at our apartment building The Sinclair in Chicago’s Gold Coast, we offer a pet spa, doggie daycare coordinating, dog walking, social programming for pet owners and a 1,000-square-foot dog run on our outdoor amenity deck.

Q: Are there amenities that used to be considered extreme, but are now considered very standard?

Tara Hovey: Programming amenities has evolved in step with the changing tastes and lifestyles of today’s luxury renters. A prime example of this is how e-commerce has driven the rise of amenities of convenience. In a literal sense, the Amazon effect is behind the now omnipresent package locker systems in multifamily communities. In a lifestyle sense, people have become accustomed to getting luxury perks without having to leave their homes. As a result, we’re seeing more multifamily developments incorporating coffee bars, pet spas, streaming fitness services such as Wellbeats Virtual Fitness Training or Peloton bicycles, private spa services like onsite massage rooms, and access to a range of concierge services—such as dog walking, home cleaning, room service, package delivery.

Q: What types of amenities do you think will be popular ten years from now?

Tara Hovey: A decade from now, we’ll see more age-agnostic communities that will draw people based on shared values. A good example of this trend will be an increase in developments that appeal to people passionate about sustainability and saving the environment, incorporating features like energy efficiency, sustainable building materials, or responsibly sourced and crafted furniture. People will care more about this as a deciding factor when choosing a place to live. There also will be more collaboration between developers and brands, such as Amazon Go, where larger developments will feature satellite locations. Other trends we’ll see more of will focus on smart technology, rooftop amenities and curated art collections. For example, Optima is currently planning to add more all-weather rooftop amenities in Chicago where some portions are enclosed in glass for year-round use while others remain outdoors. We are also exploring retractable roofs so the entire space can be used year-round, which we think will be more common over the next 10 years. Smart technology will continue evolving and making daily tasks effortless, and 10 years from now, I believe our phones will be used for seamless entry. Residents won’t need a physical garage door opener or a key fob to enter the building. Instead, the sensors will automatically recognize who they are through a smartphone in their purse or pocket and will open the doors. Elevators will recognize the person through their phone and take them to their floor; no buttons will need to be pushed. You’ll get to your front door and it will unlock without a key or a code.

Q: Are you seeing amenity preferences vary based on the age group?

Randy Fifield: Our experience developing highly amenitized buildings is that an educated consumer knows no age. Universally, we see a high demand across all age groups for co-working and wellness amenities, and we expect this to continue.