Luxury Apartment Buildings Tempt Renters With Over-the-Top Pet Amenities. ‘Dog People Really Are Dog People.’
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Luxury Apartment Buildings Tempt Renters With Over-the-Top Pet Amenities. ‘Dog People Really Are Dog People.’

Dog art class, ‘yappy hours,’ rooftop play spaces: How developers court high-price tenants

Thu, Aug 24, 2023 8:31amGrey Clock 3 min

The beauty pageant was in full swing outside an apartment complex in an Atlanta suburb. Decked out contestants pranced up and down a red carpet, while dozens of residents cheered and snapped photos.

The winner, who wore a custom-tailored red gown made by one of the tenants, went by the name Choupette. The gown didn’t quite cover her tail.

It’s unlikely Choupette understood everything that happened that night, even though her prizes included a stuffed catfish toy and a container of dehydrated chicken livers. Chris Melerski, the building resident who owns the Greater Swiss Mountain dog that won the crown—a gold foam board cutout, trimmed with faux white fur—was very appreciative.

“Dog people really are dog people,” he said. “When they offer things like this where you live, it means a lot.”

For years, pet needs tended to be an afterthought for the firms that managed luxury apartment towers. Landlords believed that showering tenants with deluxe amenities such as fitness centres, swimming pools, basketball courts and outdoor grilling stations was the way to fill up a building and command high rents.

Covid-19 altered that calculus after an explosion in pandemic pets. Millions of Americans adopted dogs as companions for long stretches stuck at home.

Pet mania has unleashed fierce competition among property owners to lure new tenants by offering the most generous—and sometimes over-the-top—dog perks, from dog schools to pet happy hours and giant rooftop dog parks. About 36% of U.S. apartment residents had a pet in 2022, according to a survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council.

“From the moment you start thinking about your business plan and start thinking about the design, you’re thinking about pet owners,” said Raul Tamez, a senior director for Greystar Real Estate Partners, the largest U.S. apartment manager, which operates more than 2,800 rental properties.

Greystar’s San Diego luxury high rise features a “bark bar” in the lobby with treats, bowls of water and a list of every five-star dog walker who works nearby.

Landlords say renters are prioritising the needs of their pooches over other factors long considered the most crucial when choosing a place to live. A survey of 1,170 apartment renters this year by developer Cortland found that dog owners rank a building’s pet policies, such as size restrictions and fees, as more important than even the cost of rent or a property’s location, according to the Atlanta-based firm that manages more than 250 apartment properties.

When Mike and Kelli Callanan looked for a new place to live in New York City, their pet’s needs were top of the list. The Manhattan building they found features a pet-bathing and grooming area, and doormen with a weakness for doling out dog treats.

“Darby was the main reason that we moved,” said Kelli Callanan, referring to their mini bernedoodle.

New York developer Related hired a designer to build a 5,600-square-foot rooftop dog park atop a San Francisco apartment building. The park is matted out in artificial turf and includes a replica fire hydrant to encourage bathroom breaks. Staff take care of cleaning.

In New York and other cities, Related also created Dog City, a daycare with activities including art, gardening and baking, aimed to accommodate dogs that live in its buildings.

For one project, staff dipped dogs’ paws in pet-safe paint and guided them where to stomp around the canvas to form the shape of a tree—one of many activities likely more entertaining for the owners than the dogs. Employees dressed pups up as artists to take photos of each with their paintings. Charcoal and Ashes, Annette Krayn’s two Chihuahuas, gave the art to their “Grandma.”

All dogs undergo temperament exams to ensure they can get along with daycare classmates. New dogs meet with each existing member individually, under the supervision of staff on the lookout for troublemakers.

“It’s harder than getting into a kindergarten at this point,” said Krayn. Charcoal initially failed the test—Krayn said he was dealing with anxiety after a kidnapping incident—so she enlisted a handler to help him pass the exam.

Cortland hosts “Yappy Hours.” The outdoor mixers offer peanut butter and pretzel swirl flavoured Ben & Jerry’s Doggie Desserts and “pup cup” ice cream for the dogs, and pizza, tacos and loaded fries from food trucks for the humans. At some buildings, staff set up sprinklers, mini inflatable pools and splash pads in the dog park.

In New York, the Callanans’ dog, Darby, slipped away from the person who was walking her on Randall’s Island while the family was away in Massachusetts. Darby found her way across the river and back to her building in Manhattan, sopping wet. The doormen recognised her right away, and helped get her to a vet’s emergency room, where she spent two days recovering.

Dog City, the doggy daycare, sent Darby a get-well-soon gift basket that included blankets, toys, a Yeti water bowl, dog treats and a $100 Dog City gift card, with a note that read: “She is a miracle and a celebrity in our eyes with her amazing yet terrifying adventure.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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