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Raising the Roof in Boston's Multi-Family Homes

Raising the Roof in Boston's Multi-Family Homes

As a whole, Boston residents are an economically fortunate crowd. They are being pickier about housing than in the past, and more and more, they are demanding the same amenities found in real estate within prominent cities like New York and San Francisco. A recent trend among Boston residents is a demand for housing with rooftop space. This is particularly true for those who live near Boston's most prominent and scenic areas, like the waterfront. Even though these features carry a higher price tag, prospective tenants are demanding the latest and greatest features.

Rooftop decks are increasingly becoming standard in Boston's elite rental complexes, like the Watermark Seaport. The Seaport is a luxury apartment building with an amenity-filled "Sky Deck" located 18 stories above the ground. Other housing facilities are following suit, and developers are clamoring to keep up with demand. Rooftop decks are appearing on residential, commercial, and mixed-use structures. While businesses can use them for employee hangout spots like lunch areas and for after-work parties, residential housing developers are moving traditionally in-house amenities up to the top floor for residents. Grills, lounging areas, shrubbery, and even pools are appearing on the roofs of apartment facilities around Boston.

Throughout the city, developers agree that rooftop decks, which are versatile and attractive, are on the top of residents' wish list in multi-family homes. For developers and building owners, that brings tremendous opportunity for increasing the price of living space within those complexes. Although adding a rooftop can increase the upfront cost for a developer, the return on investment forecast is quite good, with a potential full return in as little as one year. For building owners, increasing rent prices by even seemingly insignificant amounts, like 20 cents per square foot, can help recapture the expense of adding a rooftop deck.

Rooftop decks are a hot commodity all-around, but prospective tenants look for several key features in them. One main factor in the rooftop deck craze is that, high above ground, all residents have access to sweeping skyline views. That means, unlike in traditional apartment buildings, only a select few can have the units with the best scenery. Residents also enjoy the social aspect of rooftop hangout spots, which give them a good excuse to chat with neighbors while grilling, swimming, or simply relaxing. The social aspect is good for building owners too, as retention rates tend to be higher in units with desirable amenities like rooftop decks. When renters meet new friends on the property, they are more likely to renew a lease.

Another benefit of rooftop decks are their capacity for environmental benefits. With the launch of the "go green" movement, developers are looking for ways to make their buildings stand out to the environmental-conscious and energy-conscious crowd. For them, rooftop decks do double duty of providing tenants with a livable space that has sustainable qualities. Rooftop gardens are increasingly sprouting up on Boston's rooftop deck-laden skyline. Residents are growing their own fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers in their gardening spaces, and in-house restaurants can use that space for growing food onsite too. Another benefit of rooftop decks is that they are in a prime location to capture and reuse rainwater. Building owners and developers across the city are noting that Boston's regulations are calling for property owners to collect more water on their sites than ever before. To meet those stringent requirements, they are adding foliage to unoccupied parts of the buildings' top decks to minimize the amount of aesthetically unpleasing hard concrete. Rooftop gardens and greenery also act as a natural insulation, which can offset some of a building's heating and cooling costs.

In addition to the main benefits, developers and building owners are adding small, but noticeable touches to make their rooftop decks welcoming and inviting. Those with pools are putting out lounge chairs to mimic a resort-style deck. Tables with seating areas are not uncommon, and some rooftop decks even have bar areas. Boston officials say that the number of rooftop decks has increased throughout the city in recent years, and that trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.