Private bars, glass-bottomed pools, concierges: Apartment developers turn to even more amenities

SkyHouse Apartments amenity deck.
SkyHouse Apartments amenity deck.

When I toured Charlotte’s newest high-end apartments last fall, I didn’t see how the amenities could get much nicer: Waterfall hot tubs, massage rooms, dog washes and more marked a level of luxury I certainly didn’t get when I rented my first apartment a whole decade ago.

Turns out, there’s a whole level of apartment amenities even beyond those. Charlotte’s high-end apartments are turning to amenities with a higher level of service, even splashier rooftop pools and decks and exclusive features such as private bars to differentiate themselves.

“The level of amenities in some of these projects is over the top,” said Gary Cline, managing principal of Cline Design Associates. He was speaking at a Bisnow forum on apartment development, held Wednesday at the Duke Mansion. “That’s just normal.”

High-end apartment complexes are looking to differentiate themselves at a time when there is a huge surge of top-dollar apartments coming online. Charlotte is in the midst of a record-setting apartment boom, with some 26,000 new units either planned or under construction in the coming years – and many of those are targeting renters at the high end of the market. At the same time, the average rent in Charlotte has been rising fast, hitting $1,082 in February. That’s up 7 percent from a year ago, according to Charlotte-based apartment-tracking firm Real Data.

David Ravin, CEO of Charlotte-based apartment developer Northwood Ravin, said his firm is hiring bartenders and exploring exclusive, private bars for residents and their guests at some of their higher-end properties. Northwood Ravin owns and operates the 51-story Vue apartments uptown, and is building another upscale high-rise building on Stonewall Street.

“We’re always trying to think of something else” to set their apartments apart, Ravin said. He pointed to features like dedicated massage rooms where tenants can order luxury treatments. “It’s getting to an extreme.”

High-end apartments are also hiring “concierges” rather than property managers, people whose job it is to cater to renters and not just keep up the building and lease units.

Todd Meckley, a partner in the Charlotte office of BSB Design, said the cost of building amenities in new apartments has increased dramatically in the decade since before the recession, the former peak of the market.

“We’re doing a lot of rooftop pools. We’ve done some lazy rivers,” said Meckley. Amenities packages might have cost $500,000 to $700,000 to design in apartments just before the recession, Meckley said. “It’s creeping up to the $1 million, $1 1/2 million, $2 million range.”

Lisa Taylor is senior managing director of Greystar, which is developing the 33-story Ascent apartment tower uptown. The building features a rooftop pool and amenities deck with sweeping views of uptown, as well as other high-end touches including concierge services. Taylor said it’s already 10 percent leased, even though its under construction and prospective tenants are taking hardhat tours.

She pointed to a new apartment in Houston that features a glass-bottomed pool that hangs off the 40th floor of the building. While Charlotte doesn’t have any of those yet, Taylor said it might not be too far off.

“That’s incredible, and crazy,” Taylor said. “It’s like Vegas, but it’s in Houston.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo