Co-ops, condos and HOAs draw prospective residents with a wide variety of appealing features, from proximity to an office or family member to amazing views, to 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 and co-op 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, senior vice president of FirstService Residential, a property management company that services North America including properties throughout New Jersey. “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.”
In his experience, these spaces are popular among residents. “Especially in one building—where the units are typically smaller spaces—the residents will use the common areas as a form of a living room,” he says. “There are long conference tables in the rooms, and the residents will bring their laptops and work from there. Also, you’ll see a population of children watching television with their mothers and nannies.”
However, the line “If you build it, they will come” may have worked for Kevin Costner's character in Field of Dreams, but it doesn’t always work for a condo or co-op. Simply having a common space for residents to use—whether it be a fancy wine cellar or a simple conference room—doesn’t automatically entice them to leave their units and gather together.