June 2022 - Present
Living communities that focus on building social interaction through intentionally designed spaces and offerings.
Architecture x Product Management
Urban Neighbors is a housing start-up that is building affordable and community-centric living spaces for young professionals who want to live in an active urban environment. This project began in the summer of 2022 as a joint development project between my father's architecture firm in Tampa and myself. What started as a pitch about the future of living for our demographic turned into a development in motion.
In addition to founding the project, I have worked in various roles, including product manager, product designer, and architectural designer. I am joined on this project by my co-founder and head architectural designer, Dan Accordino, as well as Walt Chancey from Chancey Design, who is serving as architect and developer.
Below, you will find a summary of the research and analysis that went into this project, as well as a case study of our first proposed site, called Casitas, located in Tampa. It is said that a home is a "machine for living." This first iteration is a calculated test of our hypothesis of what this machine should look like when addressing the needs and challenges of our demographic.
To begin our research, we looked at the changes that were happening within work, culture, and living following the pandemic. Through this inquiry, we identified patterns and themes.
- Rising Rent Prices and Stagnant Wages
- Post COVID Dismantling Communities
- Over Saturation of Luxury Development
- Sustainability and Transportation
- Rise in Co-Living Apartments
It is important to understand that the needs of a population can vary based on location when developing living solutions. Our surveys were designed to identify the amenities and features of living that are most important to our demographic, as well as determine if they would be receptive to some nontraditional offerings. Below are some statistics that opened our eyes.
said they want to live with less than 100 people
great community and neighbors is the second most sought after benefit
said they need to pay below $1300 a month on rent
said they would utilize car sharing as their primary mode of transportation
Through synthesizing and analyzing our surveys and our secondary research, we determined that disconnection in the home sphere and decreasing affordability there were two key problems plaguing our demographic.
Across the country, rent prices and the cost of living have been increasing while wages have not kept pace. This has led to individuals having to make sacrifices in their living situations.
Tampa’s average rent price grew the most in the country up 29% this past year.
of Florida renters 18-35 need to pay below $1300 per month.
Disconnection at Home
Due to the pandemic, the strength of our work and school communities was weakened. Many of us retreated into the home sphere, where we felt isolated from many of the people who matter to us. This experience has led individuals to want a stronger connection to those around them.
Americans don’t feel a sense of belonging in their own residence.
great community and neighbors is the second most sought after benefit
A CONCEPT IS BORN
Urban Neighbors is an enabler of living communities that focuses on building social interaction through intentionally designed spaces and offerings.
Our buildings will have 44 condensed apartments, designed for the necessities of life, and will house 65 residents each. We will offer shared spaces designed for utility purposes and fostering social interaction. Our goal is to provide intentionally designed, affordable urban living.
Our buildings support ~65 residents, as 87% of our demographic wants to live with less than 100 people.
Our buildings allows for the cross-pollination of people through overlapping circulation paths or shared amenities fostering spontaneous interaction.
Shared Living and Values
We intend to pair applicants to buildings with others that share similar values and interests in a non-discriminatory application process.
Human Centered Living
In every location, there will different needs. We aim to optimize living through data and a human centered design process.
Apartments for the Future
We are committed to using higher quality building materials in order to create sustainable and longer-lasting communities.
We believe in providing dignified living for our residents, which is why we are creating unique and thoughtfully designed spaces in our buildings.
While our units are smaller than traditional ones, we have maximized the use of private rooms through intentional design.
We have chosen to focus on providing necessary amenities and shared resources rather than unnecessary and costly ones, such as full kitchens and extra parking.
While our units are smaller than traditional ones, we have maximized the use of private rooms through intentional design. We understand that privacy is important to our residents, and we have focused on creating functional and efficient spaces that provide a sense of personal retreat within the unit. The living rooms in these units open up to the walkways via floor-to-ceiling windows, which let in plenty of natural light. From here, you can also glimpse the front porch and get a sense of the community beyond. By using thoughtful design, we have been able to create comfortable and functional living spaces that meet the needs of our residents, even in a smaller unit.
Growing With You
As you make your way through your early career, our units will accommodate for your needs in space and people.
Optimized Living Space
Units are ~35% smaller than traditional apartments. These units are designed to maximize the use of space and provide more functionality within a smaller area.
In-unit kitchenettes include all appliances to enable residents to cook daily meals. Larger meals will be cooked in the communal kitchen.
Your Front Porch
The corridor acts as the resident’s front porches. The idea is to get individuals to interact as they pass by or see each other across the way.
Inside the 351 square-foot studio.
Looking down on the courtyard from your porch.
Coworking and Living Space
We will invest in land that allows our residents to utilize public infrastructure and private resources as an extension of our amenities and transportation offerings.
We intend to implement car sharing programs for our residents. This will reduce overall parking needs by ~40% in substitution for car sharing programs as per our demographics demand in Tampa.
Urban Neighbors will provide micro-mobility options such as bike storage and credit towards scooter and ride share.
Given that the most sought after benefit of any apartment building is having helpful landlords, we knew we needed to deliver quality service. To compliment our properties, we intend to develop an app that can automate some of the roles landlord’s have, thus saving us money in operations and delivering a seamless experience.
When it came to branding, we didn't want to settle for the norm. Instead of promising luxury and showcasing elaborate graphics, we chose to focus on the values and principles that make our properties unique. We kept most of our graphic packages simple, believing that a neutral branding approach will allow residents to form their own subjective experiences of living in our properties.
Creating an Ecosystem
This means supporting Urban Neighbor’s defensibility through brand loyalty in a network of properties. Expansion is the goal.
Design as a Brand
Although every home will be different different, our design principles will stay the same across all properties.
Casitas Architectural Mood Board
As for the architectural branding, each city has a toolbox of design elements true to the history and culture. As for Tampa, we played off the history of Ybor City’s Casitas, the small shotgun homes that line the blocks, and the use of historically used materials like red brick and metal balconies.
On the Horizon
This case study is just the beginning. The team at Urban Neighbors is hard at work developing the Casitas, and we are committed to continuously improving our living solutions through ongoing research and market testing. In the coming months, we will be focused on designing the best possible experience for our residents. We believe that building a strong community is an iterative process, and we are dedicated to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all of our residents.