Despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic, Smart Studios started 2021 optimistic and with new projects for its portfolio. After Lisbon and Coimbra, it is preparing to debut in Porto.
Soon, the company will invest on the creation of a new co-living project in Asprela, Porto, for a total of 243 apartments «right on Estrada da Circunvalação, in front of Hospital de São João and its namesake Metro station. We are happy for taking Smart Studios to Porto», mentioned the company’s founder Ricardo Kendall.
In an interview to Vida Imobiliária, he explained that «this project had already been approved by the Porto Municipality», and that Smart Studios will develop a partnership with Engexpor, hired for inspection. «We have just set a call for tenders for the construction, and we expect to start it soon».
The company also has new projects on the pipeline in Lisbon, which are pending approval from the Lisbon Municipality, and which will represent a total 1.000 apartments. «We expect to have those approvals this year».
The projects are: a 630 apartment student residence at Alta de Lisboa, which has been under licensing for the last two years; 270 apartments at Areeiro, and a new 290 apartment project next to Lisbon University’s Polo 2: «we are developing the project which we will then submit to the approval of the Lisbon Municipality».
In Estoril, Smart Studios won the tender from Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo do Estoril (Estoril Tourism and Hotel School) for the creation of 80 new Studios.
Amongst the latest projects to be inaugurated, are a co-living project in Santa Apolónia, Lisbon, and one other in Carcavelos, which opened in 2020.
Santa Apolónia project almost fully occupied
Last year, Smart Studios opened its first co-living project conceived from scratch, at Santa Apolónia, in Lisbon, with 114 accommodation units, representing a 5 million euro investment. Despite the pandemic, after only four and a half months, only two apartments remain vacant.
Ricardo Kendall stated that the demand was high «from day one. The location is excellent, on the river front and the building was very well designed, it has plenty of light, many common areas: a spectacular rooftop, gym, swimming pool, common rooms, coworking, shared kitchens, laundry and parking lot, among others». The pandemic did not change the project, but Smart Studios in now betting on «more sanitation. All the common areas are protected following DGS’s (General Healthcare Authority) rules and we also provide virtual yoga and gym classes», he exemplified.
Amongst the main users of this unit are the so-called «young professionals», who seek a house in Lisbon at an affordable price, but with above average conditions. A 600 euro per month studio with swimming pool, gym and parking is a great solution», stated Ricardo Kendall.
«We had to reinvent ourselves»
The pandemic brought challenges to the co-living market and Smart Studios was no exception, with 10 projects currently active, 9 in Lisbon and 1 in Coimbra. Since 2015, the company invested around 130 million euro.
Ricardo Kendall explained that «we had contracts for 627 apartments before they opened and more than 300 contracts «fell through». We had to reinvent ourselves, and with a lot of work from our «dream team» we managed to occupy practically 500 and continued receiving dozens of reservations weekly. Going from 200 to 500 rented apartments during the pandemic shows the resilience of this business».
But the pandemic did not change the fundamentals of this market, nor did it change the investors’ interest: «I think that nothing does. Those who invest on real estate know that the investments need to be pondered and on the long-term, and the pandemic will not last forever».
Ricardo Kendall highlighted as one of the main challenges to his activity, the licensing processes’ delays, in particular in Lisbon: «it is important for the Lisbon Municipality to be quicker in approving projects. There is a great lack of housing offer in Lisbon and typologies with the least offer are precisely one-bedroom apartments and studios».