Serviced residence provider The Ascott Limited has partnered with Singapore Management University to open a 32,000 square foot (3,000 square metre) residential laboratory to explore new habitats for Asia’s millennials as the potential for co-living catches the attention of some of Asia’s largest property developers.
Co-living, which is gaining interest from developers eager to be the next WeWork, has fuelled a number of shared living development in the US and globally. WeWork launched its own WeLive brand in April last year, betting that – as with shared offices – customers would pay a premium over the cost of sharing an apartment with friends to gain more flexible leases and housekeeping, along with cooler stuff like yoga classes and free beer.
Serviced Apartment Giant Tests Out Co-Living
Ascott, which is best known for operating the Ascott, Somerset and Citadines serviced apartment brands under the umbrella of Singapore’s $54 billion CapitaLand Group, opened the lyf@SMU co-living lab in the historic Malaya Publishing House today, and plans to engage 1,200 students in the facility each day, according to a statement from the company.
“The cosmopolitan city of Singapore is an ideal ground for Ascott to innovate, test-bed cutting edge hospitality concepts, and gather insights from well-travelled millennials with increasing spending power,” says Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s chief executive officer, who also pointed out that the project is directed, tested and designed by millennials.
Ascott has set up the lab to field test its lyf brand (pronounced “life”) which it opened in November last year to target the growing spending power of younger residents. The lab incorporates social areas, study rooms and concept living quarters, and combines these with activities such as startup workshops, hackathons and innovation talks. The company’s statement made no mention of following WeLive’s model of providing complementary alcohol.
Half-Dorm Half-Career Incubator
The test expects its millennial subjects to clock an average stay of four hours; this living lab is expected to help Ascott build a sizable data reservoir to better tailor its services. “We are of course also actively seeking and evaluating opportunities for lyf in several other cities and will be reaching out to millennials through Ascott’s global network to further adapt lyf as we roll it out,” Lee said.
“In our multi-dimensional partnership—which includes incubating new spaces for millennial students, developing new SMU courses and projects, creating internship opportunities – our students will stand to gain the most,” said SMU president Arnoud De Meyer. SMU will be getting the chance to use its various metrics to measure the success and failures of the opening lyf gambit with their LiveLabs Urban Lifestyle Innovation Platform and other data gathering platforms.
The hospitality industry is competing to find ways to appeal to the modern millennial, a group that will make up half of the planet’s workforce by 2020 and which spends around $200 billion on travel each year. Ascott hopes lyf, which started November of 2016, will be the thin end of the millennial pandering wedge, with an emphasis on technology and regional authenticity.
Asia Chases the Co-Living Wave
“The current incarnation for co-living developed in high rent cities like San Francisco to address the need for affordable housing to the workforce who support Silicon Valley,” Grant Morrison, JLL’s head of workplace strategy for Asia Pacific, told Mingtiandi. “Community driven shared spaces to cook together, eat together and launder together are key features of co-living spaces; curators are on hand to connect people and provide experiences for residents to share ideas that might just spark the ‘next big thing.’”
Asia has been quick to catch onto the co-living wave, with Hong Kong’s Pamfleet investing in a RMB 82 million Shanghai shared accommodation joint venture with Hong Kong-listed Deson Development International last October.
In Hong Kong last year, Gaw Capital Partners positioned its first student housing project in the city, Campus HK, as a co-living project, and former Vanke executive Mao Daqing raised $60 million last year to open 5Lmeet, a co-living affiliate of his URWork co-working startup, and has gained backing for the project from Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC just this week.