Managing Deliveries Solving 'The Package Problem'

While there are strong arguments to be made about the less-than-great impact the internet has had on our lives and the world, few would disagree that it's made a lot of things a whole lot more accessible to a lot more people -- especially at the moment, when the coronavirus pandemic has made regular brick-and-mortar shopping inconvenient at best, impossible or dangerous at worst. Even before municipal lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders were issued, practically anything, from sushi to sports equipment to sofas, could be delivered right to your door – often within 24 hours of ordering it. Convenience on a level once reserved for very wealthy people with household staff they could send out to pick up whatever is now taken for granted by nearly everyone, regardless of tax bracket.  

In many multifamily buildings however, the result of this convenience is anything but. Doormen and frontline building staff are regularly buried in everything from clothing to books to electronics to groceries, and residents in unstaffed buildings worry about packages left unattended in vestibules or lobbies. The piles were getting bigger even before COVID-19 put the whole process into overdrive (and added the additional element of worry over the virus spreading through contact with boxes and other packaging). So what’s the solution?  In a word: organization.

Making Room for More

“Storage needs for package delivery have changed over the years,” says Susan Lauren, the principal of New York-based Lauren Interior Design. “What was appropriate 10 years ago is no longer sufficient for most buildings. The space set aside just isn’t large enough. Very often we are building out package closets into existing lobby space, or adding storage capacity by creating furniture like storage cabinets that are customized to the space and match the décor and design of the lobby.”

In addition to the avalanche of boxes arriving each day from Amazon, other regular delivery items – things like dry cleaning and registered mail – are still being dropped off, and still take up plenty of space. In many cases, those items compete for space with online retail deliveries, including perishable food from meal-kit purveyors like Fresh Direct and Blue Apron, which may also require refrigeration, adding a whole new dimension to the bottleneck.

When designing a new or upgraded storage space and box reception area for a multifamily client, Lauren speaks with the concierge and doorman to get their input on how much more space they think they need, and what kind – shelves versus hanging bars, for example – since they're the ones coping with the problem daily. “I let them drive the direction of the size and objective of the new or redesigned space,” she says.

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