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Apartment Summit on the Experience Economy

Apartment owners, developers, investors, property managers, vendors, and real estate students gathered last April 24 at the George Mason Arlington campus for the 6th Northern Virginia Apartment Summit with the theme “Apartments in the Experience Economy”.  The event was co-hosted by the George Mason Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship and the Northern Virginia Apartment Association.

The day-long conference focused on the trend of renters increasingly preferring properties that move beyond standard physical amenities such as pools and exercise rooms and provide new opportunities for tenant services, engagement and experiences.  This trend in apartments mirrors a general trend for more experiential real estate development, particularly for retail properties competing with on-line purchase and delivery of commodity goods traditionally offered in physical stores.

Eric Burka of Streetsense delivered a keynote lecture on “Apartments in an Experience Economy” and emphasized that tenants are looking for services that save them time, such as convenient food and goods delivery and on-demand services such as dry-cleaning delivery and dog walking.  He also highlighted the need for good interior design to provide tenants with an emotional connection to apartment common spaces, increasing tenant satisfaction and retention.

Jamie Gorski and Khushbu Sikaria of Bozzuto Group followed with a lecture on “Experiential Disruption: Enhance Customer Loyalty and Elevate Your Brand”.  They presented effective experiential strategies such as maximizing tenant convenience, providing self-service solutions, having several fitness options, incorporating biophilic (green and natural) design, high-quality pet care, flexible rental platforms across multiple properties, immersive and interactive public spaces, using quality and fun video marketing, and having an inclusive company brand and reputation.

Sandy Paul and Bethany Schneider of Newmark Knight Frank delivered the third keynote lecture on “Preparing for a Recession: The Value of Grocery Stores to Apartment Investors”, where they studied the rent impact of grocery store proximity and validated, among other findings, the existence of the Whole Foods effect for rental premiums.

Afternoon sessions included presentations by Nate Loewentheil of venture capital firm Camber Creek on “Technology- Driven Experiences”, Jason Fudin of WhyHotel on “Pop-Ups that Blur the Line Between Hospitality and Apartments”, and Rich Haughey of the National Multifamily Housing Council on “An Update on Package Management: The 2018 Package Delivery Survey”.

Successful apartment developers and managers in the Washington, DC area now provide effective place-making, social media linkages, upgraded personal services, neighborhood connections, activated common areas and spaces, and programmed events to differentiate from the competition and add value to their properties.  The Apartment Summit provided a deeper dive into these strategies and provided examples of best practices for success.

(Some of the presentations at the 6th Northern Virginia Apartment Summit can be viewed HERE.)

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