Protecting and enhancing the brand of your association is a key responsibility of board members. The impression current and future residents form begins from the moment they approach and enter your building. As the old saying goes, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Consequently, your lobby takes on an increased level of importance.

Think of your lobby as an opportunity to make a clear and welcoming statement, setting the tone for the positive experience you want all visitors to remember. All lobbies differ in size, layout, amenities, and styles ranging from opulent to minimalist. However, there are common best practices you want to employ as well as avoid.

It might seem obvious, but paying attention to the small details goes a long way. Lobbies that seem worn, dirty and outdated create an impression of neglect and lack of maintenance. These can certainly raise red flags from prospective buyers and diminish overall value. It’s common to walk right past what might be obvious to others simply out of repetition, or maybe it seems daunting to make the necessary changes. In many cases, enhancements can be implemented, and small issues can be corrected relatively easily.

What we have found without exception is board members desire an inviting, safe and functional lobby to welcome residents and guests. When optimized, your lobby can serve as a gathering place to enhance the lifestyle and brand of your building. So if your building lobby isn’t as attractive or functional as it could be – and doesn’t portray the impression you’d like it to – we have some suggestions that can help.

1. Décor
Even a good thing can become stale over time. Have you ever noticed how often your favorite retail store or product packaging changes? We are all creatures of habit and small changes can inject new life and energy. The same holds true for your building and lobby. The good news is decor doesn’t have to break the bank to create a new ambiance and make a bold statement.

Comfortable chairs and couches invoke a sense of warmth while cocktail tables adorned with interesting books or magazines encourage relaxed browsing. Even if visitors don’t linger, the right décor will create a positive impression for those who are simply waiting for the elevator.

Creating a sense of openness and space by using smaller accent pieces with clean lines is ideal. This has the added benefit of reducing any impact on traffic circulation. For ornate lobbies, it is important to utilize appointments and furnishings that accentuate the grand atmosphere created by the architectural design. Regardless of style or décor, adding glass and mirrored surfaces, as well as mirrors in smaller areas like elevators and hallways, will both visually enlarge the space and maximize visibility as well as security.

2. Flooring
Want to make a dramatic impact? When you think of your home one of the first areas often considered in renovations is flooring. The same holds true for your building and lobby. However, there are more factors to take into consideration beyond the aesthetics. The amount of traffic and use is significant and consequently durability of the materials selected is important.

Beyond the wear and tear, safety of residents and visitors should be taken into account. Flooring materials that look good but are slick present potential issues and liabilities. If your lobby is not carpeted ensure non-slip mats are on-hand, and more importantly deployed when weather conditions dictate their use. This not only helps prevent injury but water damage to the surfaces. You might want to consider association branded mats to add an extra touch and attention to detail.

If your association is in the market to replace your lobby’s flooring, there are many options that both look good and wear well.  Depending on your budget, you may want to consider some of the newer vinyl surfaces (you’d never know it), wood laminates or hardwood, or even contemporary materials such as concrete or stone.

3. Security
Enhancing the brand of your community requires attention to many facets of daily operation and oversight. The safety and security of residents and visitors is a fundamental responsibility of the board, and professional management companies. If your building has a full-service lobby with a doorman, front desk staff and a concierge – or some combination of these roles – it’s essential that the staff is highly-trained, service-focused and properly licensed.  When your building is professionally managed, your property management company should oversee the process of recruiting quality staff and ensuring they are properly trained and licensed. 

Buildings with no on-site staff present additional challenges in ensuring resident and visitor safety, but that does not remove the responsibility. Funding permitting, the use of magnetic card systems, key fobs and video systems is suggested. These systems provide a means of tracking and monitoring which can play a role in risk mitigation. If budget is a concern, at least make sure you have a high-quality deadbolt installed at every entrance. 

Proper lighting in key areas is an effective and economical way to enhance safety and security. Many buildings utilize a buzzer system for visitors which ideally should be located in a well-lit area inside an outer entry door. Good lighting is also important throughout your lobby, as well as directly outside the building, to discourage loitering and increase security. To maximize cost savings motion activated LED lighting is an efficient solution. 

4. Package retrieval.   
Package delivery and retrieval is a common occurrence in vertical buildings requiring special attention that differs from other community types. It can be a source of clutter and confusion if not managed properly. Conversely, it can be an amenity that enhances the brand and resident experience. Start with the basics and be sure there is adequate space set aside for this purpose. If your building has a front desk staff, team members can sign for packages and notify residents of their arrival using phone, email or virtual notification systems. 
If your building is professionally managed, your property management company may offer specialized building management software to automate the package and retrieval process. For example, FirstService Residential’s Connect system tracks package deliveries and instantly notifies residents. This provides a clear audit trail and transparency for the resident as well as on-site staff.

If your building is not staffed, be sure your package area is secure, whether you utilize a separate area for packages or have residents retrieve their parcels in lockboxes. 

The lobby of your building serves many functions, from creating a first impression for residents and visitors, to ensuring security, to serving as a social hub providing essential services. All of these elements combine to define the brand and resident experience. This is critical in protecting your building’s property values and enhancing the quality of life of your current and future residents.  For more information how to enhance your building’s lobby, contact FirstService Residential.
Friday March 18, 2016