Student-Style Living for Everyone?

It was only a matter of time: some developers are interested in taking the apartment model familiar to everyone in the student housing sector and opening it up to the masses. There are challenges, not the least of which are local zoning ordinances, but at a time when affordable market-rate housing is at a premium, this approach might actually have a chance of catching on. The Atlantic has the story of one company’s effort to introduce co-living in a Rust Belt city’s downtown:

On Friday, on the top two floors of the building, he’s starting construction on a space he envisions as a dorm for Millennials, though he cringes at the word “dorm.” Commonspace, as he’s calling it, will feature 21 microunits, which each pack a tiny kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space into 300-square-feet. The microunits surround shared common areas including a chef’s kitchen, a game room, and a TV room. Worried about the complicated social dynamics of so many Millennials in one living unit? Fear not, Evans and partner John Talarico are hiring a “social engineer” who will facilitate group events and maintain harmony among roommates.

Forget communes or co-ops. Millennials, Evans says, want the chance to be alone in their own bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, but they also want to be social and never lonely (hence #FOMO)…

The building even appeals to people outside the “Me Generation.” Evans says he’s had interests from all age groups, including empty nesters looking to be more connected to the city.

Michelle Kingman is one of the Syracuse residents interested in Commonspace. Kingman considers herself a minimalist—until she rented an apartment in February, all of her possessions could fit into her car, she told me. Now she and her husband Julian live in a two-bedroom downtown, and have turned one of the bedrooms into a pristine meditation space. They’d have to give that up if they moved into a tiny Commonspace apartment, but Kingman, who is working on her own startup, likes the idea of being part of a big neighborhood community in one building. And when she wants to escape that and retreat into her tiny microunit, she says, she’ll be able to.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” she told me. “You have roommates, but they’re not roommates.”