Rental Apartments Adding Over-the-Top Amenities

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apartment amenitiesAs more homeowners become renters -- whether by choice or necessity -- the demand for higher-end luxury features in apartment buildings is off the charts. Manhattan, a city where almost 70 percent of the residential properties are rental units, leads the charge.

Features such as an on-site bowling alley, full-size basketball courts, rock-climbing walls and 70-foot-long swimming pools are drawing cards for a high-end clientele, said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, a brokerage that works with luxury rental developments.

The granddaddy of this trend is the Ashley, located at 400 West 63rd Street on the Hudson River and with rents ranging up to $13,150 a month for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit. A one-bedroom rents for $3,935 per month.The Ashley shares a foundation footprint with the Aldyn, a condominium complex with a small rental program. The buildings feature a top-of-the-line gym, plus the aforementioned rock-climbing wall, basketball court and pool (pictured above and below).

apartment amenitiesBut buildings with high-end amenities are cropping up all over the city.

Silver Towers on West 42nd Street boasts the city's largest residential swimming pool at 75 feet. It also has an outdoor entertainment terrace with a cascading wall of water, misting showers and daybed cabanas. There is an on-site nail salon, great outdoor space and even a golf simulator.

The property also has a children's play area and screening room for the kids, belying the idea that the main market for these high-concept features are upwardly mobile professionals.

Young professionals are certainly a big part of the demographic, says Malin, but families are also coming back from the suburbs. Some miss the city life and others see buildings that provide on-site conveniences as a better alternative to a long commute.

"If you build it, they will come," Malin says, borrowing from "Field of Dreams."

"Developers are looking to create communities within a building," he says. "It's a way to retain renters longer. They think, 'If I move, where else will I find all this?'

"If you provide amenities that renters aspire to have, if you give them convenience, they will come and pay premium prices for it," Malin adds. Hopping in the elevator and getting a pickup basketball game without having to leave the building has a value, as does picking up an on-site loaner car for trips out of the city.

Many of Manhattan's renters -- and the Real Estate Board of New York puts their number at 67 percent of occupied units in 2008 -- own second homes elsewhere. "If they own a place in the Berkshires or the Hamptons," says Malin, "they don't need to own two homes, so they rent here."

Manhattan has always been a rent-centric city. The city's vacancy rate over the past two economically challenged years has remained at just 2.5 percent, far below the national average of about 10 percent.

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