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In Baltimore, apartments aim to win over renters by appealing to their pets

Sarah Gantz, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Home and Consumer News

"They're really trying to provide a lifestyle for that group that is so appealing they'd really have to think about moving out to the suburbs," said Rick Haughey, vice president of industry technology initiatives for the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade association for apartment building managers.

A renter's wish list is an ever-moving bull's-eye, and managers must weigh whether the cost of adding an amenity will pay off before it goes out of fashion. But a culture shift to count pets as family members suggests that pet-friendly features are unlikely to go out of style anytime soon, building managers said.

"They're like family," said Stephen Gorn, president and CEO of Questar Properties. "It's almost like saying to someone you can't bring a part of your family to our building."

Questar is developing a towering glass building overlooking the Inner Harbor known as 414 Light St. that will feature a dog park with built-in agility equipment and a full dog spa, with raised dog-washing basins and vending machines that distribute an array of treats. Questar sought out a Los Angeles artist to design the dog spa and liked her work so much they asked her to do the rest of the building's interior design.

As pets in apartments shifts from a trend to a lifestyle, pets are increasingly influencing building designs.

The Time Group had planned to put a dog run behind its new Mount Vernon apartment complex, 520 Park. But after seeing how popular pet amenities were at the company's 500 Park, right next door, the company made an 11th-hour decision -- after the building already was under construction -- to move the run to a more prominent space between the two buildings, said Dominic Wiker, development director at the Time Group.

Carpet, long an apartment staple because it is cheaper than hardwoods and can make sterile units feel homey, has no place at 2 Hopkins Plaza, where about 55 percent of residents have a pet. The 182-unit building passed on odor-absorbing fabrics in favor of indestructible (but not too slippery) composite flooring, said Elaine De Lude, vice president of LIVEbe, which manages the recently opened apartment project.

"It's just the standard now for building a new building," De Lude said. "If you're trying to compete with that community that's right next door, also brand new with all the bells and whistles, what are you competing on?"

Such features are an investment. The Equitable's dog run, for example, was more work than laying a plot of artificial grass on the roof. It had to be built with proper drainage and requires routine maintenance, Roche said.

But developers increasingly find the investment pays off when it comes to attracting renters who don't want to live without their pets.

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