Developers offer ‘clubs’ as community catalysts

Saturday, January 22nd, 2005

CONDOMINIUM LIVING : Pools, once upon a time as splashyas it gets, no longer enough; either the market or municipal authorities routinely demanding more, developers report

Kim Pemberton


CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

Hani Lammam (above) is the Cressy Development executive managing the four-tower Hamptons Park project in Richmond.


Fifteen years ago an “amenity centre” in a condominium project basically meant the place had an extra room in the basement for social gatherings or maybe a pool if you were lucky.

But today, the centre is more like a luxury club, boasting such features as a pool, hot tub, steam and sauna room, party room with full kitchen, yoga and pilates studio, a billiards lounge, outdoor barbecue, private theatre and, in the one recent Vancouver development, a fleet of kayaks and two 10-pin bowling alleys.

“Clubs” are increasingly being built in larger condominium projects by developers eager to sell the full lifestyle package to target markets, like “active singles” or “empty-nesters.”

In some municipalities these clubs or amenity centres are actually a requirement by city officials who fear the increase in population from large developments will put too much of a strain on city amenities.

“In Richmond if you don’t provide an amenity centre they will charge you a levy,” says Michael Ferreira, president of Urban Analytics, a research and consulting company specializing in the new home market.

“The developers will argue they already pay development cost charges which are to help the city build amenities.”

But Ferreira noted despite the controversy, in many cases developers are happy to offer amenity centres or clubs because they appeal to their target market.

“They (clubs) can add value to a development. The advantage is they provide a meeting place for residents. Even though you live close you often don’t see a lot of people. They help give a development more of a community feel,” he said.

“In the downtown condo developments they’ll make them a little more intricate and some developers are being careful to see exactly what amenities are being used.”

For instance, in downtown Vancouver it was noticed that more and more families with children were buying high-rise apartments and families said they wanted more space available to them in the building. The solution for some developments was expanding the family room.

“Having a parent room is great to take a child to burn off steam outside the unit,” said MAC Real Estate Solutions co-owner Cameron McNeill, who added an amenity package could be as simple as a television lounge to a full spa-like resort.

In any event, he said, the reality of downtown real estate is buyers are looking for activities to do “outside their four walls.”

“If you have a 400-square-foot apartment and you want to entertain you can do it in an amenity room. At first I thought it (amenity centres) was a marketing tool but I can see they are being used. In some downtown developments it’s difficult to book a room (for entertaining).”

But both McNeill and Ferreira say developers are being careful to be cost-effective with any club they build to ensure it remains cost-effective as far as monthly maintenance fees go.

McNeill estimates maintenance fees can range from $90 for a 400-square-foot studio to $300 or more for the more luxurious downtown units.

Ferreira advises anyone buying into a project with a club ensure they are comfortable with the monthly fee and consider what will happen as the project ages.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun

The 5,000-square-foot clubhouse at Langley’s Sagebrook development includes a billiard table, fireplace, kitchen and exercise room.


“Ask as the project ages will the maintenance cost increase as well?” he said.

They noted some developers targeting the budget-conscious buyer solve this problem by not putting pools into the project because they are more costly to maintain, or they build an outdoor pool, which doesn’t require year-round maintenance.

“It’s important to understand consumers’ needs,” said McNeill. “Pools are generally under-used. Instead, we’ll see a gym, steam room, preferably his and her and a dry sauna.”

He noted the Tandem project in Burnaby, now under construction by Anthem Properties, is a good example where first-time home buyers living in two towers will share an amenity building in the middle of the towers. This club does not have a pool.

“The buyers were budget conscious and they liked this building offered a lifestyle. They will have a full spa, gym, sauna, hot tub, a big party room with a large screen TV, and leather couches. It feels like a sports bar,” said McNeill, adding without the pool the monthly maintenance fees are affordable, ranging from $120 to $200.

Vancouver resident France Stewart and her husband Alexander take possession next month of a condo in the 32-storey Park West project by Concord Pacific, which overlooks Granville Island.

Residents of Park West and three other nearby towers that Concord built around the new George Wainborn Park will have access to Club Viva, a 70,000-square-foot full-amenity building.

“It would be impossible for just one highrise to afford it but this way the (maintenance) cost is shared and it provides a luxury,” said Stewart.

She said the club has a large pool, a “spectacular” gym, a party room, two theatre rooms and a library.

“Clubs are really important for resale. That’s what people are looking for,” she said.

She added having a club on site also gets people out of their cars and enjoying a quality lifestyle without having to stray far from home.

This was certainly the appeal for buyers of Sagebrook, a Polygon development in Langley that was geared toward first time buyers. There a 5,000-square-foot resort-style clubhouse will provide residents a space with a large, high-ceiling guest room as well as a billiards table and stone fireplace. There’s a fully equipped kitchen and an exercise room as well.

Another new development that offers two full clubhouses to be shared by four towers is Hamptons Park by Cressy Development in Richmond. Both club houses have indoor pools surrounded by windows to let in the full light, his and her saunas, a billiard rooms and outdoor barbecues that can be booked by owners whenever they are entertaining.

“We see the value of providing this type of amenity in major developments,” said Cressy vice-president Hani Lammam.

“In a smaller project the challenge is maintaining such a facility and it becomes too cost prohibitive.”

Lammam said a project would need at least 200 units for it to be worthwhile to build a clubhouse. He added a larger project allows the maintenance costs to be shared by more owners, making it more cost effective.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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