Managing Amenities Coping With Changing Trends

The amenities found at New England’s condominium communities can run the gamut from glamorous to the mundane. Some of the larger communities are virtual resorts with enough real estate—and revenue—to offer riding stables, golf courses, ski lifts, an airstrip for private planes or a marina with boat slips. More typically, suburban communities provide a clubhouse and fitness center, and maybe a pool. For small developments, especially in urban locations, an important amenity may just be a parking space or laundry room. Amenities that are the icing on the cake for unit owners, however, can create ongoing challenges for management, as both an extra responsibility and potential controversy.

Tom Wood, CEO at JA Wood Management of Lexington, Massachusetts, contends that space alone is a precious commodity for many of his properties. “In Watertown we have a 56-unit community with loft-style condos and 22-foot ceilings. It was converted from a commercial, office building that had never been used as such. It’s filled with young professionals and families and it’s right on the Charles River bike path. It’s one of a couple of our properties that has a dedicated ‘bike room’ that is really popular.”

Storage and Recreation

Although one would think that a bike room wouldn’t need much maintenance, Wood notes that “someone inevitably asks, ‘Can we put our stroller in there?’ or skis or camping gear or whatever. But it’s not meant to be a storage room, it’s set up with tire pumps and bike shelves and benches.”

“In another property with a bike room,” he continues, “we set up a permitting system with stickers on residents’ bikes. We can then purge bikes without stickers… they’ll get sold or donated.”

More complicated is the trend towards an on-site gym. Wood says, “We have two properties with sizable gyms, and you have to assess how safe they are. Too often, boards or trustees don’t want to put money into updating equipment. We had a property on the North Shore that needed new equipment but under the previous management, there had been no funds put aside for gym upgrades. We took over the management there about five years ago and discovered they didn’t have the correct reserve funding.

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