August 20, 2011 Survey shapes Chinatown’s Hayden Building Renovation
|Images by Cube Design + Research|
HBI is in the midst of converting the Hayden building in Chinatown for residential use. This major project requires gutting and then rebuilding the inside of the stone structure. Like all residential developers, we have to make difficult decisions about which design features and amenities to include in the apartment units. Will renters prefer a gas fireplace or a stackable washer and dryer? Do people actually pay more for a 24 hour concierge? Is anyone going to use a workout room? Should the bedrooms be smaller to accommodate additional common living space? Will tenants pay more rent for a LEED certified building? Do people still like stainless steel appliances and granite countertops?
In the absence of an unlimited budget, both for profit and non profit residential developers have to make choices. All real estate development and preservation projects have a budget. Budgets are not an arbitrary nuisance but are instead based upon a project?s forecasted financial return, available resources and, in our case, an organizational mission to preserve Boston?s historic buildings.
Some developers feel comfortable relying on the opinions of a broker, while others may commission a market study that looks at the supply of competitive residential real estate projects. Some developers will claim they ?just know? what the market wants. As we discovered recently, most people are convinced they simply know. Unfortunately, these methods seem to lead to a commodity product those appeals broadly to many people but not very well to anyone in particular.
Our approach was to do research. We invited a large group of people to tour the Hayden project and provide their opinions through a structured 45-minute long survey. We advertised the event to a broad group of people and drew more than 100 participants.
The survey was divided into five sections including:
1. Demographics: age, gender, income and other information to help inform who was taking our survey.
3. Space tradeoffs: for example, do you prefer a smaller bedroom and more living space, or a larger bedroom and less living space?
4. Ranking amenities: respondents were asked to rank a list of 15 amenities and design features that could be included in the project. Our architects, Cube Design + Reserch, provided a comprehensive list that included washer and dryer, wet bars, hardwood floors and LEED Certification.
5. Rent: after looking at rendering and floor plans of a few proposed unit layouts, as well as apartments in the surrounding areas, respondents were asked how much they would personally pay in rent.
Survey participants were asked to rank features according to their importance, lowest to highest, with 1 being the most desirable and 15 the least. The results:
2 Washer/Dryer 3.98
3 Enhanced Acoustics 4.25
4 Hardwood Floors 5.79
5 Common Roof Deck 6.07
6 Built In Storage 6.45
7 Stainless Appliances
& Stone Counters 6.75
8 LED Certified or Silver 9.49
9 Modern Lobby 9.72
10 Gas Fire Place 10.6
11 Murphy Bed 10.75
12 Exposed Brick Walls 10.97
13 Wet Bar 12.12
14 Built in Bookshelves 12.15
15 Other 13.26
Survey participants were asked which options they prefer. In some cases, it was clear. In others, it’s a close call.
Option 1: 82 Option 2: 3
2. I prefer 2 bathrooms and smaller bedrooms or I prefer 1 bath and a larger bedroom.
Option 1: 34 Option 2: 49
3. I prefer more kitchen space and less living space or I prefer more living space and less kitchen space.
Option 1: 27 Option 2: 51
4. I prefer more closet space and less bedroom space or I preer more bedroom space and less closet space.
Option 1: 50 Option 2: 31