Hong Kong's designer dorms: private sector offers students budget luxe from HK$4,000 per month
City's student housing gets a stylish update with private and shared rooms, great views and a host of facilities
Student residences might bring a few things to mind: breeze block walls, spartan furniture, late-night partying. Sea views and cutting-edge design probably aren't among them. But that is exactly what is offered by Campus Hong Kong, the latest and most luxurious of a growing number of private dormitories aimed at Hong Kong's booming student population.
"We foresaw a big market here," says Marc Bichet, a vice-president of GCP Hospitality, the company that owns Campus. "We're getting so many students from [China] and abroad."
Campus is not alone: in recent years, a number of companies have opened hostels and student-oriented apartment buildings in response to a shortage of beds in university-run residence halls.
"There is indeed an increase in private student residences in the market," says Karen Cheng, a spokeswoman for the City University of Hong Kong, which maintains a list of recommended off-campus housing for students.
Among them are old standbys such as the YWCA, but also newcomers such as Y-Loft in Chai Wan and Yesinspace in Tai Kok Tsui, both of which offer hotel-like rooms for about HK$9,500 a month.
Campus has taken a different approach, offering 48 rooms with four beds, a kitchen and an en-suite bathroom. The rooms occupy three floors of the Bay Bridge Hotel in Tsuen Wan, each overlooking the bridges and ships criss-crossing Rambler Channel. Students have access to hotel facilities such as a fitness room and swimming pool, along with a lounge called The Link. Rates run from HK$4,000 per month for a bed to HK$15,000 for an entire 660 sq ft, four-bed room.
"Hong Kong is a little bit behind in terms of its offerings," says Bichet. "When I say behind, it's mainly the product itself, being modern and creating a hub and a community for students. What we've seen is that there's quite a lot of student accommodations in Hong Kong, actually, but either it's small and budget - a dormitory where you pay for your bed and that's it - or it's nicely designed but the community factor is missing."
Bichet says Campus' rooms were designed to give students space to interact without sacrificing any privacy. "Students don't always have the same hours, they don't go to class and come back together, so it's very likely that they will have independence in the times that they are working and going to class.
"They have space in the Link, which we don't believe will be full throughout the day, and there is the swimming pool, huge balconies overlooking the sea and all that stuff. You have enough space in the public areas to chill and get cut off from everyone."
In the rooms, each student has his or her own workspace, with charging points, shelves, drawers and lamps. More shelves and plugs can be found next to the beds, which are hoisted above the desks; blackout curtains can be drawn for privacy.
Functionality aside, Bichet says it was important for Campus to be stylish. "We wanted to make it a cool space, a trendy space," he says. Each room has polished concrete floors and a mixture of blond wood and stainless steel surfaces, punctuated by accent pieces such as lime green cushions and chairs. A bright red 1950s-style Smeg fridge stands across from a blackboard wall where students can write messages for one another.
A similarly cheery atmosphere prevails in the Link, which has large sofas, a flat-screen TV, a large communal table, a graffiti mural and wooden floors that are stained to appear weatherworn. A blackboard makes an appearance here, too.
"If someone is really good at maths and another is struggling, they can link together," says Benjamin Bourhis, Campus' so-called Guru - essentially a residence adviser.
Campus officially opened in June, but it is already fully booked for the upcoming academic year. Bourhis says about 60 per cent of guests are from China, with about 20 per cent from Europe, 10 per cent from Australia and New Zealand, and 10 per cent from other parts of Asia. Most are attending City University and Lingnan University, both of which will offer free shuttles to campus.
Though Campus is theoretically open to anyone, Bourhis says about 90 per cent of its guests are students, with the rest being management trainees at local corporations. Most have booked individual beds, but about a third have reserved entire rooms. "They're usually groups of friends - sometimes only three people, to have the extra space," he says.
So far, students who have booked single beds will find themselves in single-sex rooms.
"They didn't specifically request it, but they all asked about it," says Bourhis. In any case, Bourhis expects a lot of room change requests as students get to know each other and want to live with their newfound friends. "We're open to anything - there are no rules for that," he says.
Bourhis can certainly sympathise with such situations: he graduated from university only last year. "I know what students need," he says.
He is already planning a full calendar of activities for students: barbecues, boat trips and excursions to Macau. After all, he says, that's the real fun of being a student. "It's not just a dormitory - we want to build a community."