By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran
Special Features Writer

SINGAPORE — The concept of co-living is nothing new, but the newest addition to CapitaLand’s global real estate empire is trying its best to redefine it.

The Ascott Limited (Ascott), CapitaLand’s lodging business unit, launched the first property under its new “lyf” co-living brand. Lyf Funan Singapore is touted as the largest co-living property in Southeast Asia.

Seeking to offer a unique and dynamic live-work-play experience, lyf Funan Singapore was designed with community in mind — from the collaborative spaces, social programs to the strategic location at the heart of the city’s Civic and Cultural District.

Mindy Teo, Ascott’s deputy managing director for lyf, told reporters that lyf aims to address the younger generations’ need for open, collaborative spaces where they can interact, learn about new cultures, and become part of a community of like-minded people.

“The booming millennial segment, which is the fastest-growing travel demographic, already forms a quarter of Ascott’s customer base and is expected to grow. Our lyf properties are specially designed to cater to millennials’ craving for social connections, collaboration and co-creation” she said.

“It’s about creating a space where people feel like they belong, where they’re part of a bigger community. A social hub that offers a new way to belong, we see lyf playing a key role in bringing people together to discover new possibilities, spark creative ideas and contribute to the region’s innovation landscape.”

Lyf Funan Singapore spans about 121,000 square feet in gross floor area, with 412 rooms across 279 apartments. Catering to both short and long-term tenants, the nine-storey property will have easy access, via a sheltered underground walkway, to the City Hall Mass Rapid Transit.

It is also part of CapitaLand’s Funan integrated development in the district, which comprises of two office blocks and a mall offering innovative and experiential retail concepts, co-working spaces, urban farm, theatre, cinema, artisan shops, craft workshops, gymnasium, rock climbing, and futsal facility.

The development of the co-living property started in 2017, when Ascott, through its serviced residence global fund with Qatar Investment Authority, acquired the land from CapitaLand’s Mall Trust for S$90.5 million.

The fund has invested an estimated S$103 million to develop lyf Funan Singapore. Set up through a fifty-fifty joint venture with QIA in July 2015, Ascott’s private equity fund has committed total equity of US$600 million. The fund’s five other properties are La Clef Champs-élysées Paris, Citadines Islington London, Somerset Shinagawa Tokyo, Quest NewQuay Docklands Melbourne and Ascott Sudirman Jakarta.

The lyf brand, Ms. Teo said, was in part Ascott’s answer to the growing sharing economy around the world. In light of rising housing prices, as well as a preference for unique experiences instead of material things, millennials are much more open towards renting and sharing spaces than their predecessors.

“I think attitudes among the younger millennials are changing, not just in Singapore, but other countries in Asia as well” she said. “I mean, traditionally, Asia is always about home ownership. But I think people are shifting away from that mindset.”

For such guests, lyf Funan Singapore offers Instagrammable “Connect” social zones such as co-working spaces and an arena for activities such as hackathons, innovation talks, music jamming sessions, cooking sessions, or workshops with artisans.

Its “Bond” social kitchen is a collaborative space where people can prepare home-cooked meals together, take cooking classes and socialize while learning more about global cuisines from other residents. There are also places to work out and have fun with quirky design and interactive elements such as a giant ball pit, a giant-sized Connect Four set and the “Burn” social gymnasium with a human-sized hamster wheel.

Even the “Wash & Hang” laundromat is set to be a conversation starter, with the area placed right at the front of the property with a vending machine that dispenses beer.

This emphasis on facilitating community bonding and enhancing personal and professional growth is at the core of lyf Funan Singapore. Weekly social programs are held to build connections and inspire the exchange of new ideas, providing guests with the opportunity to co-organise and co-create community programs or take part in TED talks, craft workshops and hackathons, while a staff of ‘lyf Guards’ — who are also community managers, city and food guides, barkeepers, and event organizers — are there to provide help to guests who need it.

A mobile app for lyf Funan Singapore is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for easy booking, payment and seamless access throughout the property with just a tap or swipe. The lyf app can also enable communication with the lyf Guards, as well as provide guests with discounts at various shops at Funan by showing their mobile key.

The lyf Funan Singapore offers five interchangeable apartment types ranging from 18 sq.m. to 105 sq.m. to accommodate single, dual or group bookings, with room rates beginning at S$150. They include “One of a Kin” (18 sq.m.), a studio unit with an en suite bathroom for individuals and couples who enjoy their own space; “Two of a Kin” (43 sq.m.), featuring two private rooms with a shared kitchenette; “lyf Styl” (18 sq.m.), a gaming-themed studio unit equipped with a PlayStation console, en suite bathroom and a pull-down sofa bed, and also the “Up & Dow” apartments (18 sq.m.) which come with bunk beds.

The “All Together” apartments (41 sq.m. to 105 sq.m.), which are ideal for groups of up to nine, are business suites featuring two to six rooms with a shared kitchen, a Samsung Flip interactive smart screen to facilitate discussions, as well as a large table that doubles up as a workspace and dining area.

In late 2017, Ascott signed a serviced residence management agreement with local developer Cebu Landmasters Inc. to bring lyf to Cebu City with a 153-room serviced residence.

“Co-living is going to be a growing phenomenon. It’s here to stay” Ms. Teo said.

“I think there’s a lot of untapped demand in that market. For us, when we look at our plans in Asia, we see a lot of opportunity in cities like Manila or Jakarta, where there’s a rising class of millennials who have spending power. And they’re not looking for cookie-cutter hotels or service apartments. They want something more unique.”