Lead Stories

Multi-Unit Momentum

BITAC Panel Highlights Trends, Growth Potential Of Segment

By Dennis Nessler | September 26, 2022

The multi-unit segment continues to experience exponential growth and a handful of executives highlighted some of the leading design, technology and service trends that could help take the segment to the next level.

The panelists shared their thoughts during a session entitled “Multi-Unit momentum: What’s Driving Segment’s Design, Development” at BITAC Multi-Unit Housing Live 2022 earlier this month in Key Largo, FL.

Andre Landon, vp/principal, EDI International, detailed the need for out-of-the-box design while emphasizing the segment’s increased popularity, even outside of major urban markets.

“We really need to be able to get out and find some spaces, but not necessarily in the crowd. So we’ve really been exploring that quite a bit and we’ve had a ton of opportunities to do so because the [multi-unit] market is crazy. The demands on an architect and interior design are crazy. We can’t even keep up with the demand and development in Texas,” he said.

Larry Birnbaum, principal, Xenios, reinforced the point noting that ‘urbanization’ is a growing trend which has brought the segment to less populated areas.

“We’re getting this big change of more dense living with an expectation of services around it; I think that’s what is changing a lot. Even in suburban areas and outer suburban areas we’re seeing really dense mixed-use developments and that sort of thing. I just see across the country there’s a lot of urbanization taking place in what used to be horse pastures,” he said.

Meanwhile, Leslie Wilson, principal, Bricolage Design, urged multi-family developers to “think about the neighborhood and the target market you’re selling to.”

She cited hospitality designers and developers, in particular, as a prime example of that approach.

“The buildings might look the same, but they really do try to put the location into the material and there are color patterns. They’re trying to do each property to have its own character, but multi-family [isn’t the same]. There are different target markets for different neighborhoods and you have to think that way. The products that really hit the market correctly they sell very, very well. Who’s trying to move into this market, what age group are they? Are we designing for the families? Are we designing for the singles? Are we designing for the younger markets? This is very important and design has be custom tailored to that,” she asserted.

Kat Flores, EVP, AKAM, called attention to some operational differences since the pandemic from the property management perspective.

“We’re finding a lot of pent-up demand. So we’re having to really put on the gas and deliver services above and beyond I think what were required or expected before we all went on lockdown,” she noted.

Wilson also acknowledged some of the changes that have resulted from the pandemic.

“I think our concept of work changed and I think our concept of life changed. That’s something that we have to understand. The majority of the public has a different concept of the balance of work, family and living and the housing design has to keep up with that. Right now the housing that we provide has not caught up yet. I think we have to rethink what is it really that people are looking for in terms of balance of work and life?” she said.

“We talk about this live, work or play and for a segment of the population I can do that anywhere. I can live work or play wherever I want,” added Birnbaum.

Landon, meanwhile, pointed out that the majority of multi-family projects are ground-up construction and it has been a challenge in the current environment.

“Depending on the developer they need a lot of help finding contractors and that is becoming a real struggle…We try to control the construction process so they’re actually the contractors or construction manager. People are looking at different ways to get their product out there and built and there’s a lot of challenges with it,” he said.

Birnbaum detailed some of the changes in guest expectation from a technology perspective.

“We have very busy lives, we need people to give us services and expect that now. If you thought of having an apartment or condominium 15 years ago you had to move and call the power company, the phone company and your utility to get your TV set up and all of that. Now there’s an expectation that all of that be delivered as part of it. From the developer and operator side there’s a huge revenue stream opportunity,” he said.

According to Wilson, multi-unit owner and operators would be wise to consider hospitality suppliers to enhance their properties, regardless of experience.

“I’ve had really successful working relationships with a lot of hospitality vendors who had never worked on multi-family before. They’ve been really fruitful, productive collaborations with these vendors so I highly recommend reaching out to hospitality vendors when you’re looking for vendors to supply a lot of services. They’re ready, they have the infrastructure to serve multi-family units and they’re more than happy to jump into the new market,” she concluded.


Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler is Editor-in-Chief of Hotel Interactive, parent company of Hotel Community Forum. Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience to his position, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. As part of his duties, Nessler not only covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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