Have you ever lived in a new construction community? Managed a new community? Remember how special that slide was in the tot lot or even in the pool? Ah, the shine on those fabulous features one often pays so dearly for…
Flash forward ten years, twenty, thirty, dare I say forty or fifty years. What are those amenities like now? Maybe it is not so shiny anymore. Sure, they are good but how can we make these aging facilities meet and exceed our members’ expectations. The purpose of this article is to help you, the community volunteers or manager envision the reinvigoration of your amenity or amenities. These amenities can include a pool, a gym, a reading room and/or a tot lot. Ok, let us start with the basics.
Maintenance is the most critical item in dealing with any amenity. If you do not take care of the feature it will fail in what it is designed for; to make the residents and their guests feel at home and welcomed, along with increasing home values. Well operated community associations properly budget for on-going maintenance. A well-maintained facility is attractive and makes you want to use it. Maintenance further makes the facilities safe, and our insurance professionals love proper risk management. How many of us, as either volunteers or community management professionals, have seen tot lots without enough wood carpet, pools that need white coats or walking paths with huge cracks, heaving or holes? Poorly maintained facilities are a liability and turn off prospective owners and ultimately increase the cost of operation!
A pool is a very common amenity and often under used, so let’s start there. Let us assume that the facility is relatively maintained and attractive “for its age”. What can be done to bring it back to life and encourage members to take full advantage of the facility? First an inventory should be taken. What do you have and what is its current condition? Is your furniture dated, worn out, mis-matched or even stacked in the corner broken? Decide whether you need to repair or replace. Chairs can be re-strapped, re-slung and the frames re-finished. Tables can be repainted. Do you have the budget for upgrading and replacing the furniture? New colors and forms of seating always give some pop and enhance the view – so many of the new designs give a resort type feel to your community. Older pools often were just big concrete beaches with little islands of tables maybe with an umbrella. You can create group shade areas which can be large shade umbrellas or pergolas. Older pools often only have ladders, but an Association can add steps fairly simply. If you have the ability to invest on a larger scale, convert to a walk in. The options for a pool are as big as your budget and space allows. However, if your community is not in the strongest of financial positions there are little touches that can increase the appeal of an aging pool. Consider large planters with palms and annuals spread around the pool deck, upgrade landscaping, touch up the paint on the surrounding fence, and of course always make sure to have a pop of color at the entrance.
Tot lots are likely one of the most desired features in a community. What many do not realize is that there are safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that we must keep in mind when maintaining and improving upon existing structures. It is not as simple as replacing old with the new and a professional should be consulted when considering a re-design to ensure you have proper square footage and measurements for safety protocols and to further manage your community’s risk. Here again, the only constraint is the budget and your imagination. Swings, slides, climbing structures, wooden borders, plastic borders, shade structures, checker tables, picnic tables, spring riders… are just a few items for consideration. Engage your community and conduct a survey to better gauge the needs of your residents before seeking proposals.
Additionally, older communities often suffer a bit for lack of engagement on the part of the members. Try to bring the fun back to your amenities. Schedule some events to bring the community together. Upgrades and improvements to existing amenities can foster a sense of community and “grand re-openings or reveals” can make for terrific social events. Some of these projects can be a challenge during a pandemic but now is the time to bring your volunteers and management together to formulate a plan! Make them shine!
Finally, in renewing your aging facilities, remember your certified Management Professional’s and certified Business Partners’ advice is at no additional cost to the association. Lean on their expertise to bring these items back to life!
By Steve Rugen, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Steve Rugen is a portfolio manager for Cardinal Management Group. He has been with Cardinal Management’s team since 2012 and has twelve years of community management experience. Steve is a member of the CAI Washington Metro Chapter’s events committee.