Don’t Call It A Commune – Upscale Co-Living Is Attracting Major Development

If money’s too tight to mention, a co-living space may suit both your pocket book and social life. Big developers are betting big on it.

By Jeff Vasishta May 19, 2017

What may have once been referred to as a commune is today termed a co-living space. The big news that it’s not hippies with hemp rugs and cheese-cloth shirts behind the newest residences but large scale real estate developers constructing state-of-the-art buildings that are all about the bottom line.

Whether it’s because money is tight or people are just becoming more social, co-living spaces are on the rise. Communal lentil and brown rice making are not even prerequisites unless tenants want them to be. Rather you’re more likely to find residents at Chicago’s 120-unit PMGx building, located in Logan Square, taking a drinks mixology class or a bike repair workshop.

Related: It’s Official—New York Is Now The Most Expensive City In The World To Build

Co-living’s latest incarnation started to gather speed a decade or so ago when industrial type buildings in major cities were illegally converted to multiple bedrooms with common areas. The newest developer backed model has furnished common area and a kitchen. For a tenant who just needs place to lay their head for a few hours each night, there are minimum moving in costs. All they need to do is show up with a bed, futon, or air mattress. For others, who work remotely, there are wi-fi accessible co-working areas, rent is low and loneliness unlikely.

Retro fitted co-living isn’t always conducive to long-term living, with with room mates coming and going like the sheetrock and plywood on shoddy construction. That’s where PMG, which is based in New York, with offices in Miami and Chicago, feels it has the edge. They may not guarantee decades long friendships to blossom but have designed their buildings from the ground up and feel feel they have nailed the perfect trifecta of cost, comfort and convenience.

“Adaptative reuse–changing an existing product–is incredibly expensive and inefficient,” Brian Koles, director of brand and tenant experiences at Property Markets Group told Fast Company. “Trying to reverse engineer a vision for a building is also really hard because it’s literal walls and a lot of infrastructure in the way. We have the advantage if we start from the pile of dirt and we get to say, What can we build here that is going to be exactly what we want it to be? And we have the resources to do it at a larger scale than anyone else.”

Related: Digitization: Real Estate’s Ultimate Transformation

He’s right. Where as other companies such as WeLive, Ollie, Commons are dabbling in the co-living market, PMG are going gangbusters with 3,500 units planned in the next five years, built and operated by a new branch of the company — PMGx.

The move clearly wasn’t ad hoc but rather an analysis of changing societal tastes and trends. Debt and the desire not to be chained to a long term commitment spawned the investment.

“There’s a shift in values toward experience over ownership,” says Koles. That’s bad news for mortgage companies but for millennials wanting to extend their college years, these type of set-ups could be the ticket. It doesn’t mean they won’t need to have a job, however. Cheap doesn’t mean free.

In the Chicago PMGx development, a three bedroom co-living space (with extra insulation and en-suite bathrooms) costs $1,100 a month versus more than $2,000 for a studio apartment in a brand new luxury building. Amenities of other luxury buildings are included as well as biweekly cleaning for bedrooms and features like an app that tenants can use instead of a key. The app also allows tenants to let guests in, get packages from a package locker, pay rent or make maintenance requests.

Koles is quick to stress that every possible permutation for co-living has been thought of and implemented.

“We tend to avoid things like armrests and physical barriers as much as we can so that we can get people actually next to each other,” he says. Okay, maybe they are so dissimilar to communes.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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