Program in Lynnwood looks to foster community within apartment complexes

  • Sun Apr 18th, 2010 10:24pm
  • News

By Karen Law For The Herald

LYNNWOOD — Imagine that everywhere you’ve lived, you haven’t known a single neighbor.

But when you move again, you find yourself in an apartment complex that offers a “welcome home” visit and meal right after you’ve unpacked, plus a social calendar chock-full of community events. For the first time, you’re able to build a network of friends right where you live.

Living anonymously is typical for apartment dwellers. But Lynnwood-based Community Northwest aims to change that by “transforming apartment dwelling into community life.” The nonprofit has been placing hospitality teams at area complexes since 2005.

The program seeks to help property managers create a sense of community that can be key to a resident’s sense of satisfaction.

“When we introduce our program, most property managers think it is a good idea but aren’t sure whether it’s necessary,” said Kimberly Lee, Community Northwest’s human resources director. “Most have tried community building through using their own staff, but typically there is no support or training for this, and the staff already has the primary job of managing and renting the property.”

When an apartment complex signs up with Community Northwest, an on-site hospitality team works there 70 hours a month. That team connects with residents and can organize meals, emergency transportation, shopping runs and more.

Other services include welcoming new residents and weekly Kid’s Lounges, where students can hang out after school, as well as hosting community meals and organizing service projects, fitness groups and game or movie nights.

The team works closely with the management staff, analyzing demographics and creating a customized program to enhance community life for the entire complex.

“It’s transitory living,” Lee said. “You have to think of strategic ways to be more effective more quickly.”

For a one-year renewable contract, participating complexes pay a monthly $1 per unit fee (maximum of $395) to the organization as well as approve and supply the activity budget and the team’s on-site unit.

“Our program is an investment,” Lee said. “But studies have shown that it makes a genuinely positive financial impact.”

Community Northwest is modeled upon the CARES Program, a resident-retention plan created 10 years ago by Dallas-based Apartment Life. A CARES Program financial-impact analysis indicated that participation in the program added approximately $138,000 in annual financial benefits to the average community.

Statistics showed that having the hospitality teams in place helped attract new residents while reducing overall resident and staff turnover rates. And there’s the intangible effect on residents at a personal level.

“They are a phenomenal team to have on site,” said Nicole Holt, property manager of Keeler’s Korner, a 414-unit property in Lynnwood. “It’s highly beneficial because they provide a point of contact with the residents and can relay needs and concerns to us to build that sense of community spirit. In terms of how important it is to resident retention, Community Northwest is a huge plus.”