Community will be game-changer in branded residence boom

VILAMOURA, Portugal — Developers and operators that can create sociable environments and a sense of community within branded residences and new living concepts are the most likely to succeed.

That was a key message during a panel discussion on hybrid residential and leisure real estate developments at the Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum.

Hakan Kodal, chairman of Ando Living, described how he had created a new living concept aimed at digital nomads who can purchase an apartment with access to a club. The clubs, which include a restaurant, bar, café, concept store, rentable living rooms, gym and pool are open to residents and locals alike, but the residents have some extra perks and discounts.

Kodal said: “So many of us are now digital nomads. We can travel anywhere. I can spend two months in London, one month in Lisbon. I need a space to work, but I also want to feel part of the city. I want to meet the locals in the neighbourhood and that’s the difference. We are trying to make it much more friendly, and we think there is a big need.”

Ando Living is currently operating five residence buildings in Lisbon and is expanding into other cities in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Dubai. Five new clubs and eight additional new residences have been signed in Lisbon, Porto, Alentejo and Istanbul.

Big brand plans

Dana Jacobsohn, chief development officer, North America luxury brands & global mixed-use, Marriott International, noted that the international brand was significantly growing its stand-alone branded residences i.e. residences that are not co-located with a hotel.

She added that shared amenities were no longer just a gym and a spa, but now included further facilities to bring residents together such as art studios and wellness and meditation rooms.

Such community-focused developments can work even at the budget and economy end of the service scale, said Pedro Sousa vice president portfolio management - real estate, Brookfield Asset Management. He described a residence of 1,300 studios located in a nondescript area 45 minutes from central Paris where the residents have access to gyms, music studios, gaming rooms and meditation rooms. They are paying a 15-20% premium but their utility fees are included. The block is mostly occupied by students, but many continue to live there after their studies because “the community is amazing,” he said.

Location, location, location

Andreas Ewald, managing partner, Engel & Völkers Hotel Consulting asked the panel where they saw the best opportunities.

Marriott’s branded residences have increased significantly since the 2016 Starwood merger, Jacobsohn said, but most of the expansion has been in the Caribbean, Middle East and Latin America rather than Europe.

“You really need greenfield. You need land and in Europe it’s hard to find enough free land. A 20-unit development is not economically feasible for us,” she said. “But we are seeing growth in the resort destinations and we’d love more in the urban.  We just announced a St. Regis branded development right by Buckingham Palace in London. That was a hard project to find.”

Tulip Residences is a new living concept brand where residents can enjoy co-working spaces and yoga and pilates classes together. Managing director Cyril Vaussard admitted that it could be a problem finding suitable sites for development but added that the group had managed to find one in Amsterdam with extra land to build an extension.

Kodal said that Ando Living had no such constraints because the group could take on various real estate including just a few units so long as they are in the vicinity of an Ando Living Club. “The model works on a neighbourhood basis,” he said, with the ability to start at a relatively small scale and expand to up to 250 apartments per club.