In October last year, the co-living pioneer unveiled its largest project yet: a 705-room co-living development in Canary Wharf, stretching across 21 storeys. Under one all-inclusive bill, members get a private room with access to a rooftop lounge with views of the London skyline, pool and spa, a MasterChef-style communal kitchen and a co-working space, as well as a varied programme of cultural and wellness events, all with strict Covid safety measures in place. The Collective Canary Wharf also offers a variety of short- and long-term rental options: members can stay for one night or settle down for months.
While providing affordable living space is front of mind for The Collective, the company is also dedicated to helping communities across London, too. The Collective Foundation – the philanthropic arm of the business – has recently partnered with The Economist Educational Foundation to fund an after-school programme at three local schools to support disadvantaged young people. The Collective is also providing homes for NHS staff and essential workers across both its London locations, and is exploring opportunities to provide accommodation for the homeless.
You’d think the age of social distancing might put a spanner in the works for co-living, but the sector is going from strength to strength. Companies are seeing a spike in interest in their spaces and, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the market across Europe and the US could reach a valuation of $550bn in the next decade. This is because co-living offers flexibility, value for money and access to a ready-made social calendar.
With the rise of working from home, such spaces also provide an escape from a dreary morning commute. If the global pandemic has proven one thing, however, it’s that people long for human connection. Co-living offers a way for people to interact, work and socialise, and gain access to a wider community. And, with loneliness on the rise in big cities, sharing quarters with others might, for some, not be such a bad idea.
Headspace to start something new
The Collective’s head of community experience, Ed Thomas, gives us some insight on who members are, and why they join.
When many of us think of co-living spaces, we probably conjure up images of students and startup founders lounging on sofas, co-working over lunch, and schmoozing at evening meetups. But, these aren’t the only groups that enjoy the co-living lifestyle. At The Collective, members range from 19 to 67 years of age, and work in all kinds of professions: from nursing and engineering to law and public health. What’s more, 40% of the community are international, and come from a variety of religious backgrounds.
‘Someone once described The Collective as London in a building, as you can meet so many different kinds of people,’ says Ed who lived in The Collective Old Oak when it first opened. ‘Many people move to The Collective to grow their professional network, learn skills, start businesses, or even try something new – and that can be at any stage of your life.’
A key draw of The Collective is its flexible membership model: members can make The Collective their long-term home, or use it as a stepping stone. ‘There are so many reasons why people come to The Collective: they might be moving to London for the first time or have been living in London for 10 years and want a change of scenery, or they could be looking for a home that allows them to focus on their business by removing all the normal hassle that comes with renting,’ explains Ed. The Collective’s overarching aim is to help people live more fulfilling lives at whatever stage of the journey they’re on: ‘The way we do that is by creating a homely environment for everyone.’
Learn, grow and build meaningful connections
Head of events and cultural programming Pauline Loeb tells us how The Collective pivoted to online events during lockdown, and what’s coming up socially.
With so many tastes and preferences to cater to, putting together a programme of events can be challenging – especially during a global pandemic. When lockdown came into effect in London, The Collective swiftly transitioned to online events.
‘It was essential for us to keep the community alive because that’s what our members needed in times of isolation,’ says Pauline. Fitness and wellness have always been a priority in The Collective’s programming, but it took on a new emphasis during lockdown. With people stuck at home, Sunflow Dance by Becky Hicks helped members start their day on the right foot with a combination of yoga, dance and movement meditation. Psychedelic Breath by Eva Kaczor taught a guided breathing technique to help release tension and clear out mental, emotional and physical blockages. ‘This was so needed during lockdown, to release stress and feel at peace,’ says Pauline.
Outside of wellness, other popular digital events included the Cryptocurrency Masterclass, led by Grey Jabesi, a blockchain specialist, crypto investor and podcast producer based in South Africa, who also shared interesting insights around the impact of blockchain in Africa. ‘The best thing about hosting digital events is the fact that we can involve experts from all around the globe,’ says Pauline.
Since the UK emerged from lockdown, The Collective has transitioned from a fully digital events programme to a hybrid system, whereby members can get together in a shared space while social distancing, or attend the events online. Pauline’s team has focused on creating in-house productions, such as pop-up cinemas, supper clubs, networking sessions and sound meditations. ‘We’re also encouraging members to share their skills and talents.’ For example, a member in Old Oak cooked a Shabbat dinner for the community, and explained all of the rituals behind it. ‘We have such a diversity of cultures at The Collective, and members love to share their traditions with each other,’ adds Pauline.
With members craving to reconnect after lockdown, The Collective is planning outdoor events for the autumn. In addition to arts-and-crafts workshops, business coaching and day-breaker discos, the events team is organising picnics, photography tours and expeditions, such as gin tasting at a distillery. ‘We try to inspire members to grow as individuals, learn new skills, or express their creativity,’ says Pauline. ‘And to have a positive impact, by promoting diversity and tolerance and encouraging them to lead more sustainable lives.’
Find out more at thecollective.com