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For multifamily builders and landscapers, a happy dog means a happy renter

A dog-walker shares the path with a bicyclist at the Arboretum Apartments in east Boise. Developers say apartment tenants increasingly demand outdoor spaces for recreation. Photo by Anne Wallace Allen.

Dogs who live in the Afton condominiums in downtown Boise are free to roam a perch atop their own high-rise building.

The pet walking area – part of the new facility’s unique rooftop garden – shows how apartment builders are offering creative amenities to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Doug Russell, a partner with the Eagle-based Land Group who helped design the amenity, explained the pet area is fenced off and covered with artificial turf. A scooping station is available for pet owners to dispose of solid waste, and a hose is available to wash urine into a drain and filtration system.

“Homeowners can walk a dog in a pinch without having to go to the park,” said Russell, who also serves as president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, or ASLA, for Idaho and Montana. “Dog facilities are very much a requested and needed amenity for all of our land development across the board.”

More commonly, he said rooftop gardens include patio spaces, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and ornamental plants.

Russell said rooftop gardens, in general, are “the rage” in the city. He recently worked on another within the Boise State University campus, and he knows of several more in the planning stages. Nationwide, landscape architects listed rooftop gardens as the seventh most popular landscape and garden element in a recent ASLA survey,
ranking various categories of amenities. According to the survey, dog-related recreation areas are the most requestedf outdoor recreation amenity.

Amid the current building boom, Steve Arnold, with A Team Land Consultants in Boise, believes developers must include bigger and better amenities in their projects so they’ll be more attractive once the local housing market is finally saturated.

“I’m seeing a trend of larger amenities in complexes – nice-sized pools and club houses,” Arnold said.

Arnold believes dog parks and gathering places are among the most important amenities. Simple walking paths, however, are the most well-used amenities in his multifamily developments.

“I tell city councils and mayors this all the time. We’re better off spending money on paths,” Arnold said.

Andrew L. Propst, CEO of the Meridian-based property management company HomeRiver Group, said many recent projects are raising the bar on walking paths, incorporating weather-resistant workout equipment to broaden the exercise possibilities.

“It’s an amenity that people really like,” Propst said.

One of his properties includes a putting green with artificial turf and chipping area.

He also likes dog parks, given that most renters in Idaho have pets. In his view, the smart builders are emphasizing amenities that can be used every day of the year, as opposed to additions, such as swimming pools, that are used only during a few months of the year.

But Propst disagrees that builders are driving the trend of bigger, better and more creative amenities. He believes cities are behind the trend, leaning on builders to help them “beautify” properties within their boundaries. Propst believes the builders would be better served by upgrading their housing units.

“I tell owners the best money to spend is putting in quality floors or painting walls,” Propst said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the tenants will be inside of their apartments.”

Mike Swope, with Swope Investment Properties in Boise, concurs that developers are “getting hit by the cities to put in amenities.” In his properties, for example, he can’t charge much more rent for housing with swimming pool access.

“I’m not discounting amenities completely. It’s on the list you look at,” Swope said. “But I think the potential renter tends to look at the amount of rent first.”

Rather than investing heavily in recreational amenities, developers of the planned Northgate project in northern Pocatello chose to take advantage of existing infrastructure. They’re building adjacent to the community’s new Wellness Complex, which includes a beach area, a fishing dock, an outdoor amphitheater, playgrounds, pavilions and sports fields.

Ken Pape, with Portneuf Development in Chubbuck, said Northgate will include miles of walking paths, extending into the surrounding foothills. The paths will also help intertie the multiple uses planned for Northgate – including single-family housing, multifamily housing, a medical campus, high-tech industrial space and light commercial space. The project aims to enable residents to live, work and play without having to drive.

Jennifer Trammel, community manager with LC Communities, believes residents are demanding more environmentally friendly home features – such as air-exchange vents and smart technology enabling tenants to control climate and lighting remotely with their devices.

Trammel’s company manages four apartment complexes in Boise and is in the process of building two more area facilities. She said one of her buildings offers few amenities, and its units have been tougher to fill.

Trammel is convinced the next big trend to improve the quality of life for residents will be adding services. At the Fowler Apartments in Boise, for example, Trammel explained a local dry cleaner picks up laundry and drops it off for residents every Thursday. Furthermore, the facility recently contracted with a dog-walking service to assist its residents twice per week. In the community fitness center, residents can download instructor-led video exercise courses to watch on demand.

Each month, the Fowler hosts an event for residents, such as a raffle, wine tasting, jazz bands or picnic basket give-aways.

“Some people really want that sense of community, and they really want to know each other,” Trammel said.

Outdoor Recreation Amenities (Single Family and Multi-Family Residences) – Ranked in expected order of popularity for 2018

Dog-related recreation area – 68.0 percent
Designated area for other outdoor recreation – 61.5 percent
Bocce courts – 42.5 percent
Swimming pools – 36.8 percent
Pickleball courts – 30.0 percent
Hot tubs/whirlpools/Jacuzzis – 29.3 percent
Outdoor gym – 28.6
Lap pools – 27.2 percent
Basketball courts – 16.6 percent
Paddle tennis courts – 14.2 percent
Lawn croquet – 13.9 percent
Saunas – 11.8 percent
Tennis courts – 9.1 percent

Landscape/Garden Elements – Ranked in expected order of popularity for 2018

Native plants – 83.3 percent
Low-maintenance landscapes – 80.0 percent
Rain gardens – 71.2 percent
Food/vegetable gardens (including orchards, vineyards, etc.) – 70.6
Water-saving xeriscape or dry gardens – 65.9
Organic gardens – 59.6 percent
Rooftop gardens – 53.4 percent
Plant walls/vertical gardens – 53.0 percent
Planters, sculptures, garden accessories – 48.4 percent
Decorative water elements (ornamental pools, fountains, splash pools,
waterfalls, grottos, water runnels or bubblers) – 42.6 percent
Ponds/streams – 28.6 percent
Formal gardens – 15.2 percent

Information from the American Society of Landscape architects survey, with 808 U.S. landscape architects responding.

About John O'Connell