The residential-amenities race is getting weird. It used to be that a new apartment complex or condo building would lure residents with a pool or a patio. Then came the era of indoor basketball courts and game rooms. Now, it seems, developments hope to bring in renters and buyers by providing a well-lit room for making TikTok videos.
In projects around North America, developers are adding new amenities to big multi-family residential projects aimed at least partly at meeting the demands of people more interested in posting a dance video than grilling a hot dog.
There are podcasting studios, video rooms with built-in green screens, and acoustically-protected rooms for recording and producing. For a YouTuber looking for even lighting or a musician hoping to post an echo-free video to their Instagram account, these social media-focused production spaces may just be the kind of amenity that leads to a lease agreement.
“We’ve got this whole generation now that is permanently entrenched in social media and online living,” says Alex Valente, senior vice president at High Street Residential, a subsidiary of the real estate company Trammell Crow, based in Southern California. “We thought we’d lean into this trend.”
For High Street Residential’s recently opened 318-unit project in downtown Los Angeles, Llewellyn, the amenity list includes fire pits, a fitness center, and a grill area, as well as a new soundproof room intended to be used by musicians, video producers, and everyday social media creators.
“It’s a multi-purpose room, which functions as a recording studio and a space to rehearse or even record yourself,” says Valente. “We designed that right into the project to address what we thought would be the creative part of downtown.” According to the property manager, the room gets less use than nearby workspaces, but tends to be more popular at night with podcasters and even residents singing karaoke.
In Etobicoke, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, a two-tower residential project now under construction has also planned some of its amenity space to be more social media friendly. The project includes a “content studio,” equipped with separate video and audio production spaces. The video room will have a series of pull-down backdrops and a green screen for special effects, production-grade lighting, and acoustic panels on the walls and ceilings. The audio room will be soundproofed and outfitted with an “On Air” sign to indicate when recording is happening. The project, which is open for sales this month, will be completed in 2023.
The inclusion of these spaces was more than just a guess. Using surveys and data about residents moving to this part of Canada, the developers found that projects like this would draw a younger demographic, which tends to be very interested in both consuming and producing the user-generated content that floods social media.
“We did see a need,” says Kalliopi Karkas, assistant vice president of developer RioCan Living. But she notes that the content studio isn’t just latching onto the latest social media trend. “It’s not just for podcasts and all that. You can come down there if you’ve got a Zoom office call or presentation and you want more of a quiet space,” she says. “The quality that you’ll be able to get in that studio, we designed it to be a step above what you would get out of your bedroom.”
Other buildings in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. have been adding music-focused recording studios in recent years. Built-in studio spaces are as much a result of the social media age as they are a reaction to the pandemic making it safer to shift many in-person activities online. Churches, for example, were forced by the pandemic to interact with their congregations via video. In one church redesign project currently underway in Brooklyn, a professional video recording studio for online-only services is being designed right into the building.
In a residential building, these kinds of spaces are adding to rather than replacing the typical fitness studios and outdoor patio amenities. The space requirement wasn’t a huge sacrifice, says Karkas, nor does it add a lot to the project’s overall budget. And with the pandemic leading to an increase in working from home, the quiet of a recording studio can also be useful for heads-down work. Other parts of the two-tower project also include desks and collaborative workspaces geared toward the 40% of units without dens or offices.
“One of the benefits of high-rise living is you’re not just confined to the four walls of your unit. The building amenities we design are an extension of your home,” says Karkas. “For us, launching a product in 2021 that includes a co-working space is a no-brainer.”
It’s too soon to say whether the studio spaces in this and other projects are enough of a draw to bring in social media-obsessed residents, but developers like RioCan Living and High Street Residential may be at the front end of a new trend in the world of residential amenities. Or, it could be a flop, fading from memory like a once-popular social media app that was fun while it lasted. For now, social media makers seem like a large and growing demographic to entice.
“We’re always curious to see what adoption is like,” Karkas says. “I think it is very possible that we will work to evolve future projects to also include spaces like this.”