I recently posed a question to a group of developers...What if you started looking at your communities from the standpoint of children being the residents, instead of the adults?
Now obviously, I'm not talking about a community where every unit is filled with slides and see-saws or kids roaming the grounds like Lords of the Flies. But it's a question to highlight what can be done if the primary motivation for the planning of amenity space, marketing and the overall feel of a community was done with children in mind.
With 33% of all renter households (14.3 million) having minor children, it's an important question. And as more and more residents with children decide to rent instead of buy, having a true "family friendly" community can become a huge differentiator in the marketing and retention of tenants.
So what would a community that is designed around the family and actual children look like?
This may be a game changer when it comes to "family friendly" communities. One of the most significant issues for families is finding quality child care close to their residence. Having an on-site daycare within your community solves many problems for working parents and could be a tremendous asset to your residents. We see partnering with a local daycare to open in a retail section of your community or underused space. You get a great tenant that genuinely adds value to your community, and your residents get a one-of-a-kind amenity.
With services like Care.com, you can set up a "portal" for your residents to use to find babysitting, dog walking and much more. It has the added value of also making sure those babysitters / visitors to your community are screened before arriving. This "value-add" can be a much-touted aspect of your "family friendly" marketing. You can even run contests where the winners get several hours of babysitting "on the house".
Children Focused Events
Many communities already run events for residents like food truck night, contests, meet & greet BBQ's and others. But what about a Magic Show? How about a Treasure Hunt around the community? Nothing says fun like an ice-cream truck event! Adding even one "kid-focused" event per month would be a great addition to your Event calendar.
Some communities have already adopted this idea into their developments. This space should be comfortable, with chairs and tables, areas for crafts, puzzles, and learning. With the proper use of lighting and mirrors, this space can be an interior area that is normally underutilized due to lack of windows. Make sure to use carpeting and make walls stain resistant. I've seen many parents use spaces like these for their pre-k children and it's a wonderful space for learning and exploring with their children.
Suburban communities can somewhat easily accomplish adding a playground into their community, but what about urban areas? One idea would be to create an indoor playground complete with slides, jungle gyms, monkey bars and other items. This does not need to encompass a large area, as small children will primarily use it. Think McDonalds use of playgrounds into their stores. No matter the size, just having space for children to let off steam and parents take a break in a safe and fun environment is worth it.
Whether it's one of these ideas or something else, it's important to think about how to develop your community to be truly "family friendly."
Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company, BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)
* Data Source - US Census Bureau 2016