Condos, co-ops and HOAs draw prospective residents with a wide variety of appealing features, from proximity to an office or family member to amazing views or the concept of having someone else mow the lawn, fix the roof, and maintain the property. For certain residents, however, the biggest appeal of co-op or condo living is the community of neighbors and various common spaces on the property.
“In a condo, you really don’t get a chance to interact with your neighbors,” says Marc Kotler, a senior vice president in the new development group at FirstService Residential, a property management company that oversees properties in more than 20 Northeast states. “These spaces build a sense of community and get them involved in the building. The apathy is huge…you can’t get people to run for a board, but if you build a sense of community, that might change.”
Looking back, Kotler has been in the multifamily industry since 1987, and understands how common spaces have changed over time. “Back then, common spaces were only about laundry rooms and larger storage spaces,” he says. “Today, buildings have common areas that are for grilling, golf simulators, dog wash areas, and wine cellars. Now, they really are demographic and user-specific areas.”
“The condos we’ve managed that have had common area, some of them have been incorporated within the building,” says Alison Field, community association manager with Bilodeau Property Management Inc. in Providence, Rhode Island. “Common rooms are used mostly for board meetings. Some of the communities will have a goal of rehabbing them into better social spaces, depending on the money available, to possibly a gym or a place for special events like a birthday party.”
“Many townhouse communities have separate clubhouses. Cardio and other exercise equipment are always very popular,” says Deborah Jones, CMCA, PCAM, vice president of The Dartmouth Group in Bedford, Massachusetts. “The use of the rest of the space generally depends on how nicely furnished the area is. If there is nice furniture and a comfortable kitchen, many associations will host community functions. These might include gatherings for events such as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Others have card players or book clubs. If the association allows private rentals and the space is nice with a well-apportioned kitchen, owners may opt to host private events such as showers, birthday parties or family holiday dinners.”