Dubai developers capitalise on new ‘co-living’ trend as residents seek sense of community

New apartment blocks aim to create a neighbourly culture to attract transient expats and digital nomads

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One of the reasons the US TV series Friends was such a success was because everyone wanted to "live across the hall".

It looked like the perfect solution for young singles, offering the independence of their own apartments allied with with the communal space of The Central Perk coffee shop near by.

Now developers in Dubai are hoping to re-create that ambience with a peppering of specially designed apartment blocks, which they say embody the spirit of co-living.

Our residents want to live with like-minded people. They don't need a large living space, but they want a ready-made social life.

The studios and one or two-bedroomed flats are small, but the shared facilities are second to none, and in some cases include utilities such as a screening room, a fabrication lab and a pet grooming space, alongside the usual pool, gym and co-working facilities.

Sceptics might call this clever marketing, but Alistair Mac Bean, the architect of Hive Coliv in Jumeirah Village Circle, insists their 170-room development is unique.

“We're trying to foster the correct environment for interaction between communities, a place where people can connect with like-minded people.

"Part of the whole activation of the space is in the curation, so we will have a dedicated operation management team that will really get the residents involved in the shared spaces, with a buzzing social calendar."
Convenience and affordability are two key components of co-living, a trend that started in the expensive, densely populated cities of New York and London.

But Hive Coliv’s founder, Bass Ackermann, is keen to emphasise that their version of affordable does not mean student-style accommodation.

“If you're looking for a single occupancy unit, it'll be the same price that you're paying for any other studio or one-bedroom in the Marina or Business Bay.

Luxury living that offers homely comforts

“But you can't compare it on a like-to-like basis because we're adding in different features. From a hospitality point of view, everything's included – your cleaning services, your Dewa, your internet, your Netflix.”

The UNA development in Town Square Dubai is also pitched at young professionals and young families. The operators, Nshama, imagine the 930 sq m lobby lounge acting as the social hub of the building, with workstations, a music room, a games corner, reading space and creative zone.

Residents have just started moving in, and chief executive Fred Durie described the location as "a perfect fit to the start-up, digital-savvy youth of our times, who value privacy and individuality, yet cherish the joy of social collaboration".

UNA also offers a concierge service, despite being priced for middle-income professionals.

That premium offering is something the managers of another co-living development, Mag318, enlisted to attract their upmarket clientele.

The newly opened block of 439 apartments in Business Bay has the feel of a private members club, something the operators, Bespoke Property Management, deliberately fostered.

Manager, Daisy Dingemans formerly ran the residences at five-star hotels such as Palazzo Versace and the Kempinski, and looks to bring the same level of service to co-living in Dubai.

“We place a high value on guest history. Our concierge staff get know the residents and their families, and they are passionate about knowing their preferences and requirements.

“Our residents want to live with like-minded people. They don’t necessarily need a large living space, because they’re busy. But they want to live in luxury, with a ready-made social life.”

Dubai well placed to house a growing virtual workforce

Flexibility is another flagship for the co-living proponents. Thanks to Covid-19, the dream of living like a digital nomad is more of a reality for millions driven out of their offices and on to their laptops at home. No longer the milieu of young creatives, working remotely is now conceivable for executives, consultants and accountants.

Dubai is well placed to attract these roaming individuals, as authorities seek to limit restrictions on movement during the Covid-19 pandemic allowing residents to live lives close to normality.

The UAE also has the second-highest rate of coronavirus vaccination in the world, after Israel.

To capitalise on its fortuitous position, the government has created a virtual working programme to accommodate professionals wanting to live in the emirate, while employed by companies overseas.

These middle-class migrants are exactly the people Hive Coliv and Bespoke hope to house.

Bespoke Property Management is already offering studios and apartments at Mag318 by the month, and if residents leave, they can store their possessions on site, and have their personal effects put back in place just ahead of their return.

Mr Ackermann is also planning for Hive Coliv’s leases to be flexible to attract those fresh-off-the-plane expatriates.

“We all went through the same thing. You get off a plane, you're unfamiliar, you're in a place where they're asking for large deposits, and asking you to commit yourself to a long lease," he said.

“What we're trying to do is to create a landing pad, a step up into society. We're trying to foster community, to create a place where someone comes over and they don't feel like a foreigner.

“So it might be a digital nomad that needs a base to work from for a couple of months, or it might be an artist or creator who's looking for a bit of inspiration, or to connect with other people. Or it might be a young broker or a recruiter who just wants a more flexible sort of plug-and-play type living solution.”