Well-designed rooftop spaces not only provide a favorite hangout spot for residents, but can increase leads, revenue, and retention as well.

222 Hennepin, designed by Humphreys & Partners Architecture, provides views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline.
Photos courtesy of Humphreys & Partners Architecture, Paul Crosby222 Hennepin, designed by Humphreys & Partners Architecture, provides views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline.

There’s a new amenity at the top of residents’ wish lists: The rooftop is now the hottest place on the property to be.

These versatile and attractive spaces are one of the newest, most coveted amenities hitting the multifamily market. The emerging spots provide a trendy, al fresco atmosphere where residents will want to spend most of their time enjoying skyline views—leading to opportunities for extra revenue and an increased likelihood that renters will renew.

“In many of these buildings, we're not doing amenities on the ground floor, to a certain extent, because we're moving all of these traditional amenities up to the rooftop,” says Rohit Anand, principal at architecture firm KTGY.

KTGY's m.flats Crystal City in Arlington, Va., is an 11-story, 203-unit concrete frame
high-rise apartment community. 
KTGY Architecture + PlanningKTGY's m.flats Crystal City in Arlington, Va., is an 11-story, 203-unit concrete frame high-rise apartment community.

Taking in the Views
What’s the main driver behind the rooftop craze? Architects agree: the view. On a communal rooftop deck, all residents can enjoy a spectacular skyline view while swimming, grilling, or exercising, without having to pay top dollar for a penthouse unit.

“The guy on the second floor of a building downtown gets a view of the building next door,” says Mark Humphreys, CEO of Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects. But upon entering the rooftop, the image of an uninspiring building wall is long forgotten. “That person owns that skyline view. That’s his view too.”

Taking cues from the resort industry, developers are striving to make this new “must-have” space as sensational as possible. Everything from pools to putting greens are making their way onto multifamily rooftops. While the most common features include outdoor lounge spaces with TVs or movie projectors, grilling areas, fitness centers, fire pits, and gardening areas, some rooftops are offering more-unique amenities, such as dog parks, wine bars, and yoga studios.

“It’s one thing to create the space; it's another to determine what to do with it and how it will most benefit your residents,” says Cindy Harvey, principal and project manager at Denver-based KEPHART.

KTGY's AVA at NoMa in Washington, D.C., has numerous rooftop amenities such as a pool, grilling areas, and lounges. 
KTGY Architecture + PlanningKTGY's AVA at NoMa in Washington, D.C., has numerous rooftop amenities such as a pool, grilling areas, and lounges. 

Rooftop Revenue and Retention
While creating rooftop spaces can be expensive for developers, Humphreys says residents will often pay more for spectacular rooftop views, even leading to a potential one-year return on investment by including the space. Increasing rent prices even by small margins, such as 20 cents per square foot, for units at a property with a rooftop view pays off for both owners and renters.

“The evidence we’ve seen on our properties, and with other properties, is that if you don’t have a rooftop amenity, then you just lost revenue,” Humphreys says.
Fusion 1560 in St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by Humphreys & Partners Architecture, has a rooftop space with seating and dining areas and bar space. 
Laurence F. Taylor

Fusion 1560 in St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by Humphreys & Partners Architecture, has a rooftop space with seating and dining areas and bar space.

Harvey says the rooftop space should blend as a signature element of the whole building design, which will not only make current residents happy, but attract future tenants, as well.

“It’s a way to project the community lifestyle and image better than any billboard or sign can,” she says.

“It’s a true community space, so we can get revenue from that,” says Humphreys. By creating inviting spaces for residents to socialize, owners can increase retention. When renters meet new friends on the property, the likelihood they’ll renew their lease goes up.

KTGY's Linden Apartments in Portland, Ore., has 7,580 square feet of rooftop space, most of which is a garden terrace. 
KTGY Architecture + PlanningKTGY's Linden Apartments in Portland, Ore., has 7,580 square feet of rooftop space, most of which is a garden terrace. 
Gardens in the Sky

The need to go green is increasing across all forms of building, and green features have made their way to multifamily rooftops in both aesthetic and functional ways.

“I think in general, we're seeing trends on how to green up spaces both in a sustainable way and in a visual way,” says Harvey.

KTGY’s Anand cites stormwater retention as a driving factor in rooftop sustainability features.

“You’re required to retain more water on your site than ever before as opposed to discharging it into a storm drain,” Anand says. “If you have a very dense situation and it completely maxes out the site, you don’t have much room on-site for stormwater retention, so you have to think about trying it on the roof.”

Humphreys includes foliage in unoccupied areas of the roof to minimize hard, uninviting concrete spaces. Rooftops also have load capacities and occupancy constraints, which can leave empty concrete eyesores on sections of the roof.

“We created a piece of artwork with vegetation [for] the unoccupied portion of the roof,” Humphreys says. “It’s both purposeful [in] that it’s a garden area, and then it does become environmental [too], because the roof is one of the best insulators known to man.”
The rooftop garden terrace at the Linden Apartments in Portland, Ore., designed by KTGY. 
Jeff Amram Photography, KTGY Architecture + PlanningThe rooftop garden terrace at the Linden Apartments in Portland, Ore., designed by KTGY. 

But rooftop spaces aren’t just about stocking an empty deck with popular amenities—it’s about creating an atmosphere that feels both fun and comfortable.

The rooftop infinity pool at The Standard at Athens in Athens, Ga., by Humphreys & Partners Architecture.
The rooftop infinity pool at The Standard at Athens in Athens, Ga., by Humphreys & Partners Architecture.
“Don’t think of it as just another amenity box to check,” says Harvey. “Ultimately, this is the backyard deck your resident would have if they had a single-family house. Make it comfortable and inviting so they feel at home.”

Ready To Get Started?

REQUEST FREE SURVEY!