Condos, co-ops 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 or condo 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, a senior vice president in the new development group at FirstService Residential, a property management company that oversees properties in more than 20 Northeast states, including two office locations in Chicago. “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,” Kotler says. “There are long conference tables in the rooms, and the residents will bring their laptops and work from there. You’ll also see a population of children watching television with their mothers and nannies.”
“There are many types of popular common areas in Chicago,” says Peter Santangelo, CMCA and president of Community Advantage Management, based in Chicago. “In your cities, they have their rooftops where they can suntan and barbeque, and you’ll find many pools there too. In the suburbs, pools are popular common areas and party rooms; the party rooms are used for birthday parties or bridal showers. Very rarely do I see common areas or spaces not being utilized in one way or another.”