Alternative Amenity Programming for Residential Buildings

woman_computer_happy-420px.jpgResidential amenities are one of the most important considerations for prospective owners, shareholders and tenants when it comes to making a decision on where to live. However, following the temporary closure of fitness centers, interior lounges and other spaces designed to accommodate large groups, boards and building owners are now forced to reevaluate how these areas can be safely reactivated.
 
If your board is not yet ready or in the position to reactivate your building’s amenity spaces, you may want to consider creating virtual and alternative amenity programs for your residents. Virtual programing and events are the best option to both help keep residents engaged and uphold the strict social distancing requirements enforced in New York City. This easy and often low-cost alternative is also a useful tool for boards and owners to foster a sense of community within a building during these challenging times.

FirstService Residential works closely with LIVunLtd., a national leader in the design of amenity programming and concierge services, to help boards and owners identify programming and events that best suits their building.
 

Choose a Platform that Works for Your Building

If you’re new to virtual event platforms, don’t fret! Many of these technologies are free and easy to use on mobile, desktop and tablet devices. Depending on the number of residents who sign up for your event will quickly determine which platform will work for your building.
 
Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing tools with over 200 million active users. The free version of the platform is quite easy to set-up and is available on the greatest number of mobile, desktop and tablet devices. The free version also allows the organizer to host up to 100 attendees per meeting or event, enable screen sharing and control who has access to the event. At this tier, each meeting and event is limited to 40 minutes.
 
The second tier costs a modest $14.99 per month and includes unlimited meeting time and expanded additional administrative features (for example, muting a specific attendee) among other benefits.
 
Skype, a Microsoft product, is one of the oldest, free video conferencing platforms available and allows up to 50 attendees to join your call at one time. Similar to Zoom, the host(s) are able to share their screens with the entire group and creating a new account for the service is extremely easy. As an added bonus, there is no time limit regarding the duration of your Skype event and the end-to-end encryption of your call is more secure compared to other platforms.
 
Now it’s time to figure out which virtual events will work best for your building.
 

Plan a Virtual Happy Hour

When the work day ends, many people enjoy winding down at happy hour with their friends or coworkers. However, with the closure of indoor dining across New York City, visiting the local watering hole is no longer an easy option. Instead, try offering your residents a platform to attend a virtual happy hour to hang out and imbibe with their neighbors. To make it even more fun, consider choosing a theme for the happy hour event. Creative ideas to liven up your virtual happy hour might include a specific decade (think 80’s night or Prohibition-era), a craft beer-only event, a wine and cheese night or maybe a margarita party.

Oprah Magazine recently published an in-depth guide on how to host a virtual happy hour along with a variety of themes to keep it interesting. Click here to read the article.
 

Livestream a Fitness Class

Like many New Yorkers, chances are that your local gym or the fitness center in your building has been closed for months. Posting suggested workouts for your residents to exercise at home is a start, but there are more engaging ways to keep residents healthy including livestreamed group fitness classes led by a certified instructor. With a livestreamed instructor, boards and owners can customize a program suitable for an apartment, or even a series of events, that best suit the demographic of the building, create a sense of community among participants and offer residents an extra sense of accountability with the oversight of an instructor.
 
Try using these resources to find a personal trainer that’s right for your building:
Before hiring a personal trainer, be sure to do your research. Always ask which certifications they carry, how long they’ve been certified and which organization’s they’ve worked with in the past. You may even want to request a list of references from previous clients to ensure the safety of each participant and the quality of your virtual fitness class.
 
Click here for more tips from WebMD on finding a virtual fitness trainer.
 
It is anticipated that Governor Cuomo will soon allow commercial gyms and fitness amenity centers in multifamily residential buildings to reopen. However, it is also anticipated that the new regulations will require reduced capacity within these spaces. Virtual fitness classes could provide a solution for multifamily buildings with a large number of residents looking to return to their gym.
 
For buildings that do not have a fitness center, virtual training sessions for your residents may be a long-term program to consider.
 

Host a Masterclasses or Expert Panel

Over the past year, online masterclasses, expert panel discussions and fireside chats have become quite popular among residents looking for an intimate educational experience. The most popular topics often include finance, career coaching, health and medicine. For something more original, consider organizing an expert-led masterclass on starting a novel, launching a business, music production, wine pairing or mixology.
 

Organize a Game Night

For something a little more fun, consider offering your residents a virtual game night. For a healthy dose of competition, consider a “Building Idol” singing competition among residents, a digital version of Scattergories, virtual trivia or bingo. The possibilities are endless!
 

Plan Outdoor & Pop-Up Events

While the weather is still pleasant, your board may want to consider hosting an outdoor event or a temporary pop-up vendor. Both of these activations are fairly easy to coordinate and can be custom-tailored to fit the demographic of your building and the property’s available area.
 
Summer-friendly ideas might include a Popsicle stand or an ice cream truck at the building, grab-and-go arts and craft packages for children, a “Cinco de Septiembre” margarita bar, a food truck parade and more. To keep the attendees safe, consider signage that encourages six feet of social distancing. The board can also assign timeslots for each individual floor or unit to visit the pop-up to help mitigate the flow of attendees.
 

Staffing Considerations for Alternative Amenities

Keep in mind that these alternative programs may require someone to host, moderate or monitor the event to ensure that things are running smoothly and as planned. Temporary event management positions can be created to help coordinate your selected programming or to encourage social distancing, where required. To help reduce costs, you can assemble volunteer resident groups to facilitate these events.