April 23, 2020| Lester Yat
Keep off the grass.
Residential communities have long struggled with a “you-can’t-do-that” image — places where children are, at best, tolerated. But in today’s market, many buyers are looking for family-friendly homes.
And, not surprisingly, developers, boards and managers are responding. Adult-oriented community rooms haven’t been abandoned — if anything, they’ve been enhanced with computer stations, large-screen televisions and other amenities. But they’re often accompanied by kid-friendly play spaces.
Beyond the physical spaces, family-oriented amenities now encompass planned programming for children, such as art classes, cooking classes, even interactive social networking for the younger set. How far are communities going to cater to kids? One New York City building incorporated a large saltwater aquarium that not only adds some pizzazz to the lobby, but also serves as an educational resource for families living there.
On a less extravagant level, condos and other residential buildings are offering child care, swimming lessons for children, as well as dance and music classes — and even language lessons. Such programming is becoming especially popular in urban areas, in communities where outdoor amenities like playgrounds aren’t possible due to space limitations. Even an urban high-rise can find a way to help kids burn off some energy, in child-scaled gyms.
Suburban communities have jumped on the bandwagon, too, with updated playgrounds that are safer and more imaginative than the swings and slides of yesteryear.
But the introduction of playrooms and “soft-landing” playgrounds doesn’t mean that parents can open the door and let the kids run wild. Living in a common-interest community — in the city or a spacious suburban area — doesn’t relieve parents of the responsibility to watch their children … and follow the rules and regulations of the community.
Sadly, not all parents take that responsibility to heart — and expect their neighbors or staff to take on supervisory duties when the kids head off to have fun. That’s not fair to the employees or other residents — so it falls to the property manager to keep things under parental control.
Managers, invite parents to take the kids for a stroll on the walking trail. Encourage them to enroll the youngsters an art class in the community room or exercise their classroom-weary muscles in the gym. But as often as possible, gently remind them that they should not expect their neighbors to become built-in babysitters.
Signs posted at the entrance to play spaces, tag lines about responsibility printed on flyers that are used to promote family-friendly events, regular notices in community newsletters are all easy ways to keep the message on residents’ minds without appearing draconian.
Every community has its own character — and that character may, as time rolls on, change to accommodate its homeowners and residents. For many today, that means taking down the “keep off the grass” signs and putting out the welcome mat for families … including responsible parents.