Think back to when you were looking for your first apartment, probably when you got your first job after college. If you found a building that had its own gym, it was likely to be a small room with a few weights, stationary bike and treadmill. Still, you felt fortunate to have found it, right? If you lived in the Sunbelt and the place also had a pool, you felt truly thankful that there was a way to cool off after work and on the weekends without getting back in your hot car. You might even have stayed in that apartment until you changed jobs or bought a home.
In the years since then, those tiny gyms have evolved into larger, better-equipped fitness centers. Fast forward to the present day and you’d find those fitness centers and apartment communities offering a range of wellness features.
“Most of the fitness spaces we see in multi-family include a large functional training area with cardio and weight equipment, as well as a fitness/yoga studio,” observes Chicago-based concierge fitness firm LulaFit vice president of operations Zack Neff. “These gym spaces are more built out than what you would typically see at a hotel, and the newest buildings we are working with even compare to high-end boutique gyms,” he notes. In the five years his company has been in business, that trend has been accelerating, Neff says. “The spaces have continuously gotten nicer and bigger with every new development.”
Are these spaces getting used, or are they like the typical chain gym after everyone’s new year’s resolutions have lapsed in February or March? In a 2017 Resident Preferences Survey conducted by the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade association for the residential rentals industry, 91.4% of respondents said their community had a fitness center, with slightly less than 40% using it at least weekly. They told the group that they want more than just a room with equipment; they want training:
- 7.6% requested virtual/on-demand classes;
- 26.5% requested classes taught by an instructor;
- 22.9% requested both virtual and in-person classes.
Companies like LulaFit have sprung up to lead them. “The fitness classes in highest demand are yoga, high intensity interval training and strength and conditioning,” shares Neff. The company also offers cooking and nutrition classes, massage services and meditation events for residents.
While personal training and instruction are growing in popularity for apartment communities, so are “Zen-like” wellness amenities. For example, Related Midwest’s One Bennett Park rental/condo tower in Chicago features a meditation room, 60-foot indoor salt pool, spa suite and landscaped recreation deck. Haley Rafferty, the developer’s multi-site senior general manager notes, “In urban areas with the hustle and bustle of city life at your doorstep, it’s important to provide opportunities for residents to relax and unwind.” Other popular wellness amenities at complexes like hers include indoor gardens, poolside saunas and steam rooms, quiet spaces and green walls.
Wellness benefits are not restricted to luxury complexes in Chicago or the two coasts. LC’s New Albany, a Columbus, Ohio-area apartment community with market-rate rents, has developed fitness spaces and participation-focused programs. These include a league for its sand volleyball courts, a fitness program that includes private and group training, and tenant outings to Spartan Races and other events.
Drewery Place in Houston, the already-built market rate rental component of a mixed use development, offers community yoga events, a dog park, fitness center and training, an indoor yoga studio and a juice shop on the ground floor.
Wellness is a fast-growing focus in the real estate industry. It’s estimated to comprise a $134 billion slice of the market, according to the Global Wellness Institute’s 2018 Build Well to Live Well study. The concept has definitely come a long way from that tiny gym and community pool you were glad to find half a lifetime ago. What will you or your adult kids be finding – or perhaps developing – next? The sky, or sky deck, seems to be the limit.