A bocce court is set up and awaiting players on a rooftop lounge of an apartment building

Located on Chicago’s North Shore, the Optima Verdana apartment community has rooftop bocce ball courts. Permission granted by Optima Inc.

As the Fourth of July holiday nears and temperatures soar across the country, apartment residents look for opportunities to stay cool while enjoying the outdoors.

To meet this demand, designers, owners and operators are expanding the possibilities of the exterior. These include making improvements to staples like the pool and lounge area, adding unique attractions, bringing traditionally indoor amenities outside or creating indoor-outdoor spaces that residents can enjoy year-round.

One major design choice facing properties that choose to incorporate a pool is where to put it — with the most common choices being in a central courtyard or on a rooftop deck.

An outdoor waterfront lounge on an urban apartment property
Designed by HLW, the Beach apartments from Newport Rentals in Jersey City, New Jersey, offer an extensive waterfront green space with multiple seating areas and landscaping.
Permission granted by HLW

“When designing an outdoor pool, a developer needs to consider the accessibility of the pool, what the view will be and the ambiance of the site,” Diana Pittro, executive vice president at Chicago-based RMK Management Corp., told Multifamily Dive

Edward Stand, principal and director of quality management at New York City-based design firm HLW, notes that a property’s pool placement can depend on the demographics of its tenants and the intended purpose of the pool.

“If an owner is angling for families, amenities will be tailored toward children,” Stand said. “If the building is 20-plus stories high, parents might not want their children throwing a beach ball around on the roof.”

Fun and games

Active programming that promotes social interaction through entertainment and gaming options — such as bocce, cornhole, volleyball and movie nights on a lawn or rooftop space — continue to be very popular during the summertime, according to Mary Cook, founder and president of Chicago-based design firm Mary Cook Associates.

A clay running track on the rooftop of an urban apartment building
Outdoor amenities at Optima Kierland in Scottsdale, Arizona, include a rooftop running track.
Permission granted by Optima Inc.

Those activities could be paired with opportunities to kick back and relax. For instance, an upcoming $100 million apartment complex on Purdue University’s Fort Wayne, Indiana, campus, developed in a public-private partnership with Providence, Rhode Island-based builder and developer Gilbane, is set to start construction in October and open by June 2026. In addition to green spaces, grilling stations, fire pits and sand volleyball and basketball courts, the property’s 600 future residents will also have access to a “hammock farm” for outdoor relaxation.

For serious workouts, one of the most popular new amenity moves is the extension of the indoor fitness center into an outdoor space, often taking the form of a multipurpose lawn specifically for exercise. “We’re seeing fitness centers with dedicated outdoor space — gym equipment and turf areas on covered outdoor terraces,” Alan Barker, principal and residential market leader at Chicago-based design firm Lamar Johnson Collaborative, told Multifamily Dive.


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Visit Optima Verdana and Optima Kierland Apartments for more details