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Micro-Units with an Added Twist: Roommates

by Lark Turner

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A rendering of a room in a Samsara micro-suite.

Think micro-units are a wild idea? One company, Stage 3 Properties, wants to take the tiny concept even further — by adding roommates.

The New York-based company thinks it can add value by being a one-stop shop for the far-flung millennial. Instead of opting for bad room-share solutions on Craigslist — those listings that hit the mark price-wise but offer little in the way of comfort, amenities, or even windows — Stage 3 believes there’s room in the market for a room-share concept that’s part apartment, part hotel and 100 percent tiny. They’re calling it a micro-suite, and it could be coming to a city near you. The team is currently in development on properties in New York and Boston and plans to operate under the brand name Samsara. The name is intended to evoke “a high-end Asian-inspired luxury hotel,” according to one of the company’s founders, Christopher Bledsoe.

Their first development, which will have 50 micro-units and micro-suites in a 200-unit building, is expected to deliver on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in late 2014, Bledsoe told UrbanTurf, adding that the company has its sights on expanding to Philadelphia and perhaps DC. The company will use space-saving bed-couch combos from Resource Furniture.

Bledsoe pitched Stage 3’s business plan last week at a panel on housing affordability at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. The company is betting that the young people heading to cities are willing to be squeezed into units with an average of 235 square feet to call their own if the price is right. The units would have no living rooms, but rather two bedrooms with flexible furniture that double as living rooms.

For those of you doing the math, yes, that means two-bedrooms measuring out at 470 square feet, some with Jack-and-Jill bathrooms with two entrances and a sliding door between the toilet and shower, so they can be used simultaneously. But the key, Bledsoe says, is that the units aren’t the tiny room-shares currently in so much demand on Craigslist. Those room-shares are often bleak, as demonstrated by a humorous blog, The Worst Room, which catalogs Craigslist’s worst offenders. Bledsoe gave an example of a Manhattan room featured on the blog that was 12’ x 10’, accessed by a ladder and on the market for a mere $1100 a month. Its ceiling height? Three feet.

So Bledsoe thinks his company’s luxury suites, small though they may be, look pretty good in comparison.

“It’s tight,” he said, “but again, it’s not three-feet ceiling height.”

The 50 micro-units in the group’s first development could be looked at as a prototype, Bledsoe said, but he argues the concept itself has already been tested.

“I always felt like the test case is happening right now and it’s happening in the underground market,” Bledsoe explained. “In my mind I’m already satisfied that there’s been ample test cases out there, and this is the prototype of our first attempt to bring transparency and legitimacy to an otherwise-underground market.”

Prices per person at the Upper West Side development, which will have 30 three-bedrooms along with studios and two-bedrooms, will range from roughly $1500 to $1800 in the shared suites, Bledsoe said. Right now, Stage 3’s data show young people just out of college pay about $1700 on average for housing in the city.

“We’re looking to create a lot of price points so we can appeal to a broader audience,” Bledsoe said. “We’re not trying to deliver a sharper price point right away, just a better, more streamlined, higher-quality experience for that same dollar.”

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Stage 3 has researched how many listings are available on Craigslist in major U.S. cities, but he noted that listings only tell the supply side of the story. Bledsoe says rooms posted on the site at attractive price points often get dozens of responses in minutes.

“(Unaffordable housing) hasn’t stopped this consumer group from figuring out how to live in Manhattan. They’re figuring it out anyway,” Bledsoe said. “The problem has just reached epic proportions, and there’s a seismic dislocation between supply and demand for room-shares.”

The company would also offer software to match compatible roommates, along with housekeeping services and drink service at the building’s rooftop pool. But careful with your comparisons to, say, Arizona State.

“We really want to get away from the idea of being like an adult dormitory,” Bledsoe said. “That’s not what this is. It’s a higher standard of living, so we want to emphasize the hospitality.”

See other articles related to: stage 3 properties, stage 3, microunits, micro-units, micro units

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/start-up_wants_to_create_micro-units_with_an_added_twist_roommates/8612

1 Comment

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 3:13 pm on Friday June 13, 2014:

    I think a lot of people would consider paying $1500/month or so for a room with a full wall of glass, on a very high story, with stunning views south to the Empire State Building and beyond.  It sure beats that Craigslist landlord, asking just a little less for that 3’ ceiling “room”! 

    But really, is this business model based on comparing a wildly unrealistic image of the new product with the horrible bottom of Craigslist?  Hard not to see some delusion in both.  At least the Craigslist landlord shows hilarious humanity—who knows, someone that crazy might make an interesting, even fantastic roommate, despite it all.

    That doesn’t mean I predict failure for the concept.  The supply-demand situation in NYC is sufficiently out of whack that I would expect a concept like this to be basically successful, as long as it keeps its rents competitive. Likewise for DC, although it’s less extreme, of course, than NYC. Philly would be a more interesting test case, since its real estate isn’t so pressured.

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