Sunday, May 3, 2009
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
Do you have a high-tech lifestyle but an apartment stuck in the dark ages?
While new apartment complexes often infuse themselves with technology, everything from big-screen theaters to business centers, many older sites have been forced to look on with envy. Retrofitting occupied apartments to enter the technology age has seemed just too big a hassle.
But the door to high-tech is opening wider to let in more than a select few.
Take the Anthem Building at 34th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan, which is keeping its edge with a state-of-the-art sound entertainment system. Since the Anthem went up in 2003, its vision has been to offer the best of modern amenities, said Paul Athens, property manager.
"We had envisioned this would be a building with condo-level amenities as a rental," Athens said. "We tried to put as much foresight into the development as we could," he said, such as the Ethernet connections available in each apartment since Anthem's inception.
Yet quickly, Athens began to experience the difficulty of holding onto that vision in a world of rapidly changing technology.
It seemed that the dream was lost.
Enter New York-based iHolmes Technologies. Founder Richard Holmes hoped that he had come across a niche in today's competitive real estate market. He pitched to Anthem a home entertainment system that tenants could control through touch screens and speakers in every room, and was brought in to put Anthem's vision back on track.
"So far it's been pretty well received [by tenants]," Athens said. "For someone who's looking for a luxury apartment, it's a huge plus."
With the home entertainment system, he said, apartments are ready to move into; tenants don't have to lug around stereo systems. Everything's controlled by a touch screen in the wall, which can be tied into 25,000 global radio systems and more than 50,000 movies controlled by an iPhone/iPod touch application. The touch screens can even be found in the bathroom, which Athens said is quite a surprise to guests.
"The speakers in the bathroom are the coolest thing around," he said. "I don't know of anyone in the neighborhood who has this."
Athens said the entertainment system is a way to attract tenants but at the same time, it's an investment in the building, not like offering one month's free rent, which may be a magnet but adds nothing to the real estate value.
Holmes is encouraged by the response from Anthem and hopes many others will follow on both sides of the Hudson River.
"It can add value and technology to each property and [allow rentals to] distinguish themselves from the building down the street," Holmes said.
With the home entertainment system, he said, "You can access movies instantly over the Internet, and you have built-in home theater."
The sound entertainment system integrates movies, iPods, Pandora, CDs and Internet radio through the touch screens and speakers in every room. Yet these can all work independently so Mom and teenager don't have to listen to the same music, but if there's a party, it can be channeled through at least four rooms.
Alan Hammer, a member of the Jamesburg-based New Jersey Apartment Association, agreed that modern amenities can be a better selling point than enticements such as a month's free rent for new tenants. Yet he said for his older rentals, like several garden apartment sites in Bergen County, he places more stock in renovating with the introduction of air-conditioning, dishwashers and kitchen upgrades.
In any case, Hammer said, "I'm not a great believer in discounts. I'm a believer in upgrades," because whether it's technology or air conditioning, they enhance a building's value...