A New Era of Micro-Apartments Emerges in Crystal City
Commercial Property Management

A New Era of Micro-Apartments Emerges in Crystal City

WeWork's Residential Debut

Innovative office developer WeWork is taking a bold step into the residential realm with their first-ever apartment building. This project signifies an exciting new venture, transforming an empty office structure on South Clark Street into a micro-unit apartment building.

The WeLive Project

This 252-unit complex, dubbed as 'WeLive', marks a departure from WeWork's traditionally co-working office projects. Located near the intersection of 23rd Street S. and Jefferson Davis Highway, the building will feature a mix of variously sized units: studio, studio+, and studio max. A limited selection of two, three, and four-bedroom units will also be available.

Size dictates the distinction between the studio variants. A regular studio will encompass roughly 300 square feet—slightly more spacious than an average U.S. living room. Studio Max units offer a more generous area of around 650 square feet, while the studio+ variants will lie somewhere in between.

Community Living, WeLive Style

You might be wondering, what can one possibly accommodate in such a constrained living space? Surprisingly, quite a bit, but not a stove or an oven. Drawing inspiration from collegiate life, each floor will boast a shared kitchen and a common area, providing a sense of communal living. Unlike dorms, though, WeLive residents will have private bathrooms.

WeLive has envisioned a unique two-story "neighborhood" layout, connected by a flight of stairs, with communal spaces centrally located on each floor. These neighborhoods will feature commercial-grade kitchens, dining areas, and communal areas that could house a living room, a garden, or other amenities. The premise behind this concept is fostering an environment where residents prefer socializing in common areas over remaining confined to their individual apartments.

The Appeal of Micro-Living

The anticipated lease price for these micro-units stands at $24.77 per square foot. This innovative approach to urban living is part of a broader trend, even though few such units have been developed in the DC area thus far.

So, what's the allure of these compact living spaces?

Micro-living appeals to a modern demographic shift. More Americans are delaying marriage, starting families later, and living alone longer. The appeal of expansive suburban homes is waning; instead, people seek living arrangements that mirror their lifestyle changes. Micro-units attract young, single professionals desiring an urban life but lack the necessary income for traditional city apartments. They prefer to live within walking distance of public transport, nightlife, and workplaces, instead of committing significant income to mortgage or rent.

Interestingly, micro-housing is not just appealing to millennials. Empty nesters looking to downsize or seeking a city-based weekend home might also find this lifestyle attractive.

However, there are critics of micro-living. Dak Kopec, the director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College, suggests that tiny apartments can potentially lead to increased claustrophobia, domestic abuse, and alcoholism.

Implications for Landlords, Investors, and Buyers

The rise of micro-living presents unique opportunities and challenges for landlords, investors, and potential buyers. For landlords and property investors, these compact units offer a new niche to explore. With the trend towards minimalistic living, there is an increasing demographic that values location and convenience over square footage. The lower price point compared to traditional city apartments could attract a larger pool of potential tenants, leading to potentially higher occupancy rates.

On the other hand, landlords and investors venturing into micro-living must be prepared for specific demands that this kind of living imposes. Shared spaces must be carefully managed and maintained, as they are a key part of the micro-unit's appeal. Landlords must also be ready for a potentially higher tenant turnover rate due to the transient lifestyle these units tend to attract.

For buyers, micro-units can provide an affordable entry point into homeownership in areas where traditional homes may be financially out of reach. However, these units also come with their own set of considerations, including limited private space, communal living dynamics, and potential resale value.

As with any real estate venture, it's essential to conduct thorough research and consider the long-term implications before diving into the world of micro-units.

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