Amenity spaces will look different
In many apartment communities, spaces such as fitness centers, lounges, co-working spaces and bar areas have been closed for weeks based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health authorities.
Now, property managers are considering how they can reopen these spaces in a way that allows residents to enjoy and make use of the amenities while putting the health and well-being of residents first. Depending on the size and scale of the community, approaches will differ, but residents should prepare for revised hours, reservation requirements and additional signage with clear directions around use and social distancing protocols.
For co-working spaces — more relevant now than ever before — many communities are posting signs that outline enhanced cleaning protocols and encouraging residents to observe social distancing. Depending on their size and scale, some communities may add plastic guards between working stations and limit the number of stations in use at a time.
As summer begins, pools may start to open, but there are likely to be occupancy limits. Many communities have already implemented a reservation system where residents can sign up for a scheduled block of time. This allows as many residents as possible to enjoy the pool while keeping the number of people at a safe level.
For spaces with high-touch surfaces and equipment such as fitness centers, the process may be slower. There will probably be special hours and a reservation system similar to those in co-working spaces and pool areas. Equipment may be spaced farther apart and some stations may be closed.
For all spaces, there will probably be transition blocks where the space is cleared for a thorough cleaning.
Digital communication and alternatives will continue
While some leasing offices have already started reopening to residents and guests, communities continue to encourage communication by phone, email or other channels such as a community app.
Many apartment operators already had digital options in place for leasing, renewals and other requests, and those that didn’t are quickly adapting to minimize the need for in-person contact among residents, guests and staff.
Maintenance teams will begin servicing non-emergency requests again, but with caution
If the community is a coronavirus hot spot, maintenance requests may continue to be vetted. However, many communities are gradually beginning to take non-emergency requests — with precautions in place, including training maintenance techs on wearing personal protective equipment and proper disposal. Property management teams are also enhancing cleaning protocols for tools and supplies.
While maintenance teams remain committed to addressing problems as quickly and safely as possible, some of these protocols may mean a slower response time, on top of a backlog of non-emergency requests.
How can apartment residents help? Continue following social distancing guidelines, wearing masks, washing hands thoroughly, observing community signs and following health and safety protocols for group spaces and service requests.
The solutions that apartment communities implement will differ by region, residents’ needs and available resources. The trajectory of the virus will determine what steps our communities can take to approach a new normal.
Robert Pinnegar, CAE, is the president and CEO of the National Apartment Association.