Designing Common Areas What Works Best?

In the past, developers would throw a few chairs and tables into a large room and call it a 'common room' or a 'recreation space' and leave it at that. Today, however, there's more to designing, maintaining and upgrading a successful common area than just sweeping the floor and making sure the Nespresso machine is stocked with coffee pods. Over time, bare-bones meeting rooms with a woebegone ping-pong table and a third-hand TV have given way to next-level common spaces that are attractions in their own right. 

In just about every major metropolitan area—including parts of the Garden State— luxury condominium developers are listening to buyers, and building common areas into their projects from the get-go that include fitness facilities, business centers, party rooms and movie theaters for residents to enjoy. 

“All of the newer buildings have lounges and outdoor spaces,” says Dan Wurtzel, president of the property management department for FirstService Residential, which handles properties throughout the tri-state area. “They have some type of fitness center and health club. We have a building that has a bowling alley. Some of these buildings have dog washing stations where you can give your dog a bath or shower if you don’t want to do it in your apartment. Residents have responded really well to those.” 

“I’m seeing a lot of new, fun outdoor spaces, and rooftop lounges,” says Todd Dumaresq, a project manager for Toll Brothers City Living, a luxury development firm that oversees a number of luxury buildings in Hoboken and other New Jersey communities. Maxwell Place in Hoboken, for example, features over 30 rooftop terraces. Amenities also include lounges, fitness centers, a children’s playroom, a park and dozens of courtyards. “Our space 1100 Maxwell has a rooftop pool on the fifth floor, private rooftop terraces and a hot tub and Jacuzzi,” Dumaresq says. 

Design Elements

According to the pros, common areas in multifamily buildings, particularly in denser urban areas where individual apartments may not exactly be spacious, are often used as an extension of residents' homes. “Especially in buildings where the units are typically smaller spaces, residents will use the common areas like a living room,” says one management pro. Newly-built condo buildings might include common amenities such as theaters or screening lounges, billiard rooms and wine cellars. “Today owners are looking for social space, so the lounge space now has work tables where technology has been integrated,” says another designer. “Before, the lounge space had been designed solely for watching TV, but now we provide work tables with plug-ins and comfortable chairs.”

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