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The Continent's Biggest Co-Living Development Is Coming To Queens

29-26 Northern Blvd. in Long Island City, being developed by Simon Baron Development and Quadrum Global.

Co-living — multifamily spaces designed to encourage residents to interact with their neighbors with emphasis placed on common spaces, rather than individual apartments — has been on the rise in New York City since the concept was introduced a handful of years ago.

Monday, one of its biggest players, Ollie, announced the sector's biggest space to date:  a 125K SF, 43-story tower with 426 beds across 14 floors at 29-26 Northern Blvd. in Long Island City, Queens. The project is under construction from developers Simon Baron Development and Quadrum Global. Ollie officials state the space will be ready by January 2018.

“For many lenders, innovation is change and change presents risk, which has stunted the evolution of the housing stock,” Simon Baron president Matthew Baron said in a prepared statement. “Ollie has disrupted this dynamic by designing their projects to address the risk side of the equation, which allows them to innovate at a large scale and deliver a living experience that is more closely aligned with the changing demographic of today’s renters at an affordable price point.”

Ollie will design, lease, market and manage the space, which it claims will be the "largest purpose-built, ground-up co-living community in North America." The distinction differentiates it from projects like WeWork's WeLive concepts in Lower Manhattan and in Arlington, Virginia, both constructed in repurposed former office buildings.

Co-living executives Ollie CEO Chris Bledsoe and Common CEO Brad Hargreaves in 2016

Brothers Andrew and Chris Bledsoe founded Ollie in 2011. For three years, they met with developers — about 400 in total, Chris Bledsoe counted — until signing their first deal in 2014 for the Northern Boulevard development. Their first deal will come to fruition four years after agreeing to it. In the meantime, the Bledsoes, through Stage 3 Properties, operates New York City's first micro-housing development at Carmel Place, and Ollie has locations in the pipeline in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Jersey City and Pittsburgh. 

Ollie had a partnership arranged with a separate developer that bid on the Long Island City site when Simon Dushinsky put it on the market in 2014. But Simon Baron outbid that group for the property, and the Bledsoes, after having tweaked and finessed their pitch through years of rejections, approached the winners with their never-been-done-before concept. 

"At that point, co-living wasn’t a term, and micro-housing was just being banded about," Bledsoe said. "Matt Baron, midway through the meeting, asked to leave the room and pulled John Simon with him. When they came back, they said, 'Not only do we want to do this deal, but we also want to put you into multiple sites and help support your platform and essentially incubate the business.'"

An Expensive, Long Buildout

New York City laws dictate that housing units must have light and air, which makes adaptive reuse for co-living much harder to execute than new construction, Bledsoe said. The expensive, long buildout of its first two concepts was part of why WeWork has paused its WeLive rollout.

"It’s very hard to do micro-housing in adaptive reuse because of the floor-plate," Bledsoe said. "To do co-living right kind of forces you into the new construction path. That’s a pump we’ve been priming well before WeLive, well before Common came into the marketplace."

The Long Island City tower at 29-26 Northern Blvd. will have more than 470 apartments total, and the majority of the floors will be conventional rental units. Ollie's apartments will be divided into two- and three-bedroom units, with individuals paying around $1,450/month for bedrooms up to 187 SF, as well a host of perks.

Ollie residents will have access to the building's 20K SF of amenity space, which will include an indoor pool, a gym and a rooftop terrace with views of the Manhattan skyline. Each Ollie resident gets a soundproof, pre-furnished bedroom, free WiFi, weekly towel service and other perks normally reserved for hotel guests, plus events designed around the co-living company's theme of community.