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Ask the experts–our clients!

If you are building apartments, why not ask the experts–the tenants–how to improve them?

John Putre, an architect with SMR, takes feedback from clients at Interbay.

That’s what DESC’s Property Development Team and SMR Architects did recently, when they visited DESC’s Interbay Place to ask tenants’ opinions on everything from counter space, windows and ranges to TV and respite rooms.

A Client Voice listening session like this complements other ways DESC engages with clients to learn how to better serve them, and it provided good feedback to incorporate in upcoming projects.

One of those is to be built a few blocks north of Interbay, the 15th Ave. W. Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) project which SMR is designing.

SMR Architects also designed Interbay, and wanted to learn how this model works for those who live and work within it. It includes offices, common areas inside and out, and individual studio apartments with private bathrooms, efficiency kitchens, some cabinets, a bed, small table with two chairs, a closet, shelving and windows that open.

Touring an apartment

The visitors’ first stop was an Interbay resident’s apartment, where they spent about 30 minutes asking questions and listening: Would it be better to have more counter space to the right of the stove? Did they use the full-size oven, or should it be smaller?

“Yes, the full-size oven is used…No, it shouldn’t be smaller…The tables would be easier to use for paper work if they were a little larger. …”

SMR representatives heard that the center overhead light in the living space is too bright if you’re lying down. They measured, took notes and considered storage: Could they add cabinets above the refrigerator? Could some of the small shelving areas be something different? Could the bathrooms have some counter and storage space?

What about the street noise, they asked? What about walking in the neighborhood? Is it accessible to get around? Is there a nearby crosswalk?

Checking out the common areas

After viewing the apartment the group invited all of the tenants to the common areas on the first floor to give feedback on those spaces, as well as their apartments. The main lobby space is well-lit by large windows, and features comfortable seating, occasional tables and computer stations. The tenants said that before COVID-19, they liked to use the lobby, TV and computer areas, and that created a sense of community.

The architects wondered if residents use the outdoor common area, which features benches and is screened from the street. Yes, the tenants assured them, they use the common area. Well then, could it be better?

The feedback session lasted about two hours. DESC plans to hold them more regularly going forward–at least once, and maybe twice a year, at various locations. That way, any DESC tenant may voice their opinions.

Several tenants who voiced their opinions that day first moved in when Interbay opened in 2015.

“I love living here,” one longtime resident said. “I just love it.”