Stronger together: millennials drawn to blended co-living and co-working spaces
More modern entrepreneurs, technopreneurs, start-ups and individuals from music, media and fashion are attracted to the sense of community that co-living spaces offer
People “are all much stronger and happier when we are together”, according to Adam Neumann, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the moment.
Neumann is co-founder of WeWork, the wildly successful American co-working hub brand which by end 2016 was present in more than 110 locations around the world, including Hong Kong.
The company’s notion of togetherness was also expanded last year to incorporate co-living spaces, branded as WeLive, where residents have a small unit to themselves while sharing a communal kitchen and laundry.
While no plans have been announced to expand this model to Hong Kong, the fact that the company’s two WeWork hubs in the city are in the serviced apartment hot spots of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai reflects an emerging trend.
According to Girish Jhunjhnuwala, the founder of Ovolo Group, a boutique hotel brand headquartered in Hong Kong, blended co-living and co-working spaces are the way of the future.
“More global, non-geographic specific businesses are opening here, and entrepreneurs are increasingly choosing spaces where they can not only work alongside other businesses, but also live among their peers,” Jhunjhnuwala says.
Community, he adds, “is a phrase heard over and over from modern entrepreneurs”.
Two of the brand’s Hong Kong properties – Ovolo Central in Central and Ovolo Noho in Sheung Wan – are close to a choice of co-working spaces, while Ovolo Noho also has its own co-workspace environment within the hotel’s Lo Lounge.
In order to stay relevant and reflect the market’s changing trends, the group is branching out with its own co-living and co-workspace concept, Mojo Nomad. To be launched at Ovolo Aberdeen Harbour in Q4 2017, the property will have 65 rooms and more than 250 beds, providing a community bar and cafe, lounge and co-working space, with communal kitchen and laundry facilities available for residents.
This is a new concept that will cater to nomadic and digitally-savvy travellers, says Jhunjhnuwala. “With Mojo, we believe co-living is a new way of travelling, living and working with community and collective experiences at its core.
“Once successful, we plan to expand the concept to other areas like China as well as Australia where the Ovolo presence continues to grow.”
Singapore-based The Ascott, one of the leading international serviced residence owner-operators, announced the China expansion of its co-living brand, lyf, launched in Singapore last year. City manager Chew Hang Song says the company is on the lookout for suitable properties to expand the concept to Hong Kong.
Ascott has positioned lyf to capture the booming millennial market “by signifying a new way of living and collaborating as a community”.
The first lyf property in mainland China, the 112-unit lyf Wu Tong Island Shenzhen, will open in the first half of 2018. The 120-unit lyf DDA Dalian is scheduled to open by the end of 2018, while lyf Farrer Park Singapore, the biggest of the three new lyf properties with 240 units, is slated to open in 2021.
The company believes that Hong Kong is ripe for the lyf brand.
“lyf is designed for and managed by millennials who wish to experience destinations as locals do,” says Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s CEO.
“Going beyond traditional hospitality concepts, lyf signifies a new way of living and collaborating as a community, connecting guests with fellow travellers and change-makers.”
Millennials already form a quarter of Ascott’s customers and this segment is poised to grow exponentially, especially in key gateways cities like Hong Kong, adds Lee.
Lee describes lyf is accommodation tailored for this demographic, including technopreneurs, start-ups and individuals from music, media and fashion.
“We do not define millennials by age but instead they are a social generation who crave discoveries and desire to be part of a community,” he says.
“lyf will provide global jetsetters and trendsetters with the opportunity to ‘live your freedom’ in a dynamic environment and network with like-minded creatives to bring more ideas to life. Most importantly, they can be assured of a consistent quality in products and services, given Ascott’s track record in managing award-winning properties worldwide.”
With the rising trend in co-living and co-working, he says, Ascott aims to have 10,000 units under the lyf brand globally by 2020.
Meanwhile Ascott’s Causeway Bay property, Somerset Victoria Park, offers residents seeking professional support with a daily rental arrangement and nearby co-working space The Work Project.