ULI Special Report: 5 Ways to Capitalize on the Shared Space Environment

5 min read

As embracing shared space becomes increasingly popular among every generation, developers at the 2016 ULI Spring Meeting revealed how they're creating communities in different ways.

Philadelphia—With rents at all-time highs and cities becoming increasingly dense, people of every generation are utilizing the shared economy. Whether through co-housing, micro units or flexible leases, developers and owners are coming up with new ways to adapt to changing renter preferences and capitalize on opportunities in the shared space environment. During the panel “Mine-Yours-Ours: The Development Opportunities in Share Spaces” at the 2016 ULI Spring Meeting, industry leaders discussed how their companies are developing communities that share space in different ways, attempting to meet their residents’ demands along the way.

The "Mine/Yours/Ours: The Development Opportunities in Shared Space" panel (left to right: Lance Robbins, Scott Blew, Jamison Weinbaum, moderator Michael Horst
The “Mine-Yours-Ours: The Development Opportunities in Shared Space” panel (left to right: Lance Robbins, Scott Blew, Jamison Weinbaum, moderator Michael Horst)

1. Shared housing: Jamie Weinbaum of Washington, D.C.-based Ditto Residential discussed its innovative project, Oslo, which features nine luxury residences with 33 bedrooms. The three- and four-bedroom residences come with private bedrooms and bathrooms, but common spaces are shared. “We saw a need in the shared housing space when we had a particular site where we were capped on the number of units we could do but they could be very large units,” Weinbaum said. “We started exploring other markets that have done share housing and designed a concept … where it’s giving them a Class A experience all on a lease basis.” He added that the residents decide how to split up the total rent and the company is looking to apply this model to four other projects in pre-development or under construction.

Another benefit of this type of housing is it makes renting more affordable, Weinbaum said. “D.C. is struggling like other major metropolitan areas with affordability so this we think it’s a creative way to still live in a new product with your own private space but being willing to share the common space,” he said.

2. Shared business suites: Targeted to make business travel easier, Scott Blew’s C Suites offer employees an alternative to booking traditional hotel rooms. The company offers a private suite with shared central space for meeting, collaborating and eating, surrounded by individual guest rooms. Companies sign annual or multi-year commitments so a dedicated coordinator can personalize the suite to the company’s needs. “The benefit is the flexibility of resources and being able to use them differently,” Blew explained.

3. Shared creative space: Lance Robbins, principal of Urban Smart Growth, said his company has done several projects that involve creating communities with co-working space and communal areas for artists to display their work. Projects include: Hope Artiste Village, the transformation of a former mill in Rhode Island into a complex with manufacturing, office and retail spaces, live/work studios, bar/restaurants and music venues.; 400 West Rich, a former warehouse in Columbus, Ohio into a home for 80 local artists with studio and co-working space; and its recent repurposing of the 32,000-square foot Arnot Motors building in Marysville, Calif. into 420MVL, a creative hub with art studios, creative office space, retail area showcasing art pieces, live music events and a coffee house.

“Every person is walking around is 10 people. Buyers want 10 or 15 things at any moment. What most developers miss is they build for one person, they don’t build for other nine people,” Robbins said. “If you think about the multiplicity of who the customer really is and you create a space around those personas, you get an incredible response.”

Marja Preston discussed the Grow Community among the other panelists.
Marja Preston discussed the Grow Community among the other panelists.

4. Shared sustainability: “Asking your customer how they want to participate in a space, whether it’s commercial or residential, is an approach we took at the community project I’ve been working on,” said Marja Preston, a consultant who recently led the development team at Asani in implementing plans for the three-phase Grow Community. The community has options to rent or own residences, and is a new urban One Planet neighborhood in Bainbridge Island, Wash., with solar-powered homes, shared community gardens, and an orchard. She said the community is multigenerational because the team reached out to people of all ages to ask what they want in a community.

5. Shared office: Colleen Carey, founder of the Cornerstone Group, said that while her firm isn’t doing shared economy projects, it does bring the idea of shared space into its projects. “We’re dipping our foot into it and creating spaces that are intended to be used by multiple parties,” Carey said. “I see a need for community building and we can’t really afford to create spaces that are single-purpose spaces. We’re moving because of economics and the need for community towards more of this shared space idea.” She added that today, about 40 percent of workers in the U.S. are independent contractors and don’t necessarily work from an office. “Office is changing entirely and as developers we want to create spaces that are flexible enough to do multiple activities in one building.”

One concern Carey expressed was the multifamily industry’s reputation for moving slowly to adopt new ideas. “When I hear about these [shared space] ideas, I think about who would I get to put the money into something like this?,” Carey said.

To Carey’s question, Robbins said that’s what makes shared space an interesting niche. “It allows extraordinary returns for those that have the capital, guts and imagination to do it, but there’s the question of how do you give comfort to a lender or underwriter who doesn’t understand how you project works.”

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