This article originally appeared in Multifamily Executive. Read the full article here.
Three years ago, LBC Boston had just completed construction on its first residential development, Nova Residences of Brighton in Brighton, Mass. The six-story, 80-unit development featured a mix of competitively priced studios, lofts, as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments, with views of the Boston skyline.
The New England development firm began leasing and immediately noticed high demand for its studios, in particular, not only from single professionals but also from couples and roommates. Here was an unfilled market niche for renters who wanted the feeling of a larger space, in upscale highly amenitized new-construction buildings, but at a more affordable price point. Taking those findings into account, LBC Boston decided that for its next residential project, it would skew the unit mix even more toward studios and began brainstorming how to make those studios as comfortable and functional as possible.
Its local architect introduced the firm to Ori, a company that partners with developers to design multifunctional, adaptable spaces using its combination of robotics and design expertise. One of its current flagship products is an all-in-one furniture suite that glides on tracks to expand or contract at the touch of a button, a tap of a mobile app, or by voice command. This reveals or conceals a sleeping area complete with a bed or a daytime home office area with a worktable, entertainment console, and plenty of storage. Other Ori products include an expandable walk-in closet and a bed that ascends to the ceiling revealing a table or couch. LBC Boston was intrigued.
By LBC Boston’s calculation, Ori products could add 100 square feet of usable space to each of its studio units, making them feel like junior one-bedroom units. Its architect set the team up for a tour of The Watermark in Boston, where Ori was demonstrating a prototype. It immediately saw that Ori solutions would be perfect for its first ground-up development: Nova Residences of Quincy, a 171-unit mixed-use rental community in Quincy, Mass.
After multiple visits to The Watermark and many conversations with Ori’s engineers where the LBC Boston team shared its Nova Quincy vision and plans, the Ori team came back with a menu of product options tailored to the project.
LBC Boston CEO Andrian Shapiro says he believed in the product, and the team made a leap of faith to allocate 40 out of 86 studios at Nova Quincy to Ori Studio Suites. The pieces were custom-built for the development and arrived in a timely manner, allowing the LBC Boston team to promptly install amid some construction delays on its side. In the end, the installation process was roughly eight weeks, though four weeks is more typical.
Once leasing began, its leap of faith was justified as the studios containing Oris were leased and occupied within two months of the building opening, to both individuals and couples. According to the firm, it valued that Ori Suites gave its building a competitive edge as well as provided cutting-edge innovation and technology combined with the value proposition for cost-conscious renters seeking the space and utility. One resident shared that Ori enabled him to have that desired division of space that gave his studio all the comforts of a “normal” apartment and let him live a lifestyle that would usually require more space than he actually had.
LBC Boston has a 300-plus-unit development planned in Boston. Still going through the permitting process, it plans to have approximately 100 of the units contain a mix of Ori solutions in the studios and one-bedrooms.
While the firm’s relationship with Ori predates COVID-19, the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders has cemented to the team how important it is to optimize in-unit amenities and finishes. If there is another wave of infection and people are required to self-quarantine at home again, the firm is confident that residents will appreciate having a flexible and adaptable space even more.
It was not all smooth sailing for LBC Boston. While every construction project has unforeseen challenges, it can be doubly true when working with new materials and technologies. LBC Boston recommends engaging outside firms earlier in the design process. Because Ori’s involvement began halfway through on Nova Quincy, the team had to do some modifications and adjustments to align with fire codes that could have been easily avoided and accounted for earlier in the schematic design phase. The team says it also would have involved the fire department in conversations sooner, as there was some education work it had to do on its end to explain what was a wall and what was movable furniture.