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A new breed of co-living - can a ready-made community really be achieved?

Some believe co-living as a concept has only grown in significance as society has had a chance to reassess its priorities and key requirements of the home following lockdown.

Dandi, one of the companies aiming to lead this charge, says those in their twenties, thirties and forties are increasingly searching for the newest, innovative, most affordable living spaces, within a ready-made community. 

The company's imminent launch of its co-living scheme in Wembley - which is set to take place later this year - will provide a 355-apartment development with two penthouse floors of hospitality-activated amenity space.

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The Wembley scheme comes with mindfully designed Magical Studios that can be reconfigured into five different modes, 'as well as a vast array of communal spaces and living experiences that will enable residents and members to connect with each other'. 

Here, PIT speaks to Ali Reza Ravanshad (founder of Dandi), for his thoughts on affordability, the new breed of co-living and whether such a way of living should be open to all ages.

You talk about Dandi being a new breed of co-living that blurs the lines between corporate lets, traditional renting, a hotel, and a social gathering - what do you mean by this? 

Blurring the lines between the traditional sectors of hotels, serviced apartments and private rentals, Dandi combines fully furnished apartments, with hotel-style facilities like housekeeping and toiletries on-arrival, whatever the length of stay.

It’s a workspace, meet place, chill out space, a club and a home. It offers experiences to remember without the hefty price point. Our resident members could be staying with us for business, leisure to study or just stopping by for lunch on the roof.  

What do you say to those people who criticise co-living for being unaffordable and aimed only at one demographic - wealthy young millennials?

Our mission isn’t to make rent unrealistically cheap. To do so would be to strip away important elements of the living experience that holistically define one’s quality of life. Rather, our mission is to make magical living accessible. Accessible, to us, means rents that work for renters in the missing middle — those that London’s Class A rental market has forgotten, typically earning less than £50k per year. 

Dandi’s price points reflect a discount to comparably located traditional studios and 1-beds, and when factoring all of the hidden living expenses incurred in a traditional let, the savings at Dandi become even more substantial. 

Why have you picked Wembley, which has been most associated with Build to Rent in recent years?

We see an opportunity to be part of a cultural renaissance that is bubbling in Wembley with a variety of cafes, markets, retail, and green communal spaces. It’s also easy to commute to Central London which is a selling point touted by most BTR developers in the area who concentrate on more traditional 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom flats as opposed to studio units with a vast array of amenities and living experiences. We simply fill the gap harmoniously. 

Are there any differences between BTR and co-living? Or are they two sides of the same coin?

Attainably priced, furnished, WiFi, housekeeping, and perhaps the biggest difference: social energy… which in our case is bolstered by our community managers, state-of-the-art amenity areas, rooftop bar and casual diner on our 15th and 16th floor. We’ve even included an experience inspired by Madrid’s micro-theatres. The experiential living environment that Dandi provides is unrivalled and cannot be matched by BTR/PRS operators as the business model does not support it. 

Should co-living be something all ages consider?

We believe so. It’s less about age and more about life stage. Nuclear families have more options. Co-living is about catering to the rest - recent university graduates, older young professionals including creatives and gig workers, divorcees and empty nesters. 

How can an effective sense of community be developed in co-living schemes?

With intent. People are inherently social creatures. They naturally crave social connectivity… and a good coliving operator understands how to facilitate a sense of community in a manner that feels natural and organic.

A new breed of co-living - can a ready-made community really be achieved?

What are the Magical Studios in Dandi Wembley all about?

Our smart Magical Studios with ensuite bathroom can transform into five different modalities throughout the day to sleep, exercise, work, eat and play. From a Lift bed with under light to simulate natural daylight, bi-folding doors that cleverly conceal kitchen cabinets with a pull-out breakfast bar to modular sofas that can be hidden within the walls, the design allows you to reconfigure the space to maximise every square metre. 

Lastly, for the past 15 years, you have invested heavily in the research and development associated with innovating the way we live in cities - can you tell us more about this?

We are particularly proud that Dandi is vertically integrated into a London based furnishing and joinery factory. People told us we were crazy. But BMW wouldn’t sell you a car and then expect you to add your own off-the-shelf seats later. Instead, consumers want a fully integrated vehicle with all of the details — down to the square centimeter — considered prior to production. We think this is also the best way to optimize the living experience. 

Over the last 16 years of quietly piloting our magical studio, this approach has given us invaluable direct feedback from our consumer, allowing us to constantly iterate and improve the product. 

It has also allowed us to control our production costs and gain more certainty around our supply chain, which in turn ensures that we can continue our mission to make ‘Magical Living Accessible’. We aim to develop 15,000 units over the next seven years to create a £5 billion portfolio that will be rolled-out across Europe and the United States.  

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