It’s a relatively new concept in the housing market.
And the chief executive officer of the California-based investment group specializing in recycling underutilized hotels and motels into studio apartment complexes calls the concept a “re-envisioning.”
The group arranged an open house Thursday for a new studio apartment complex at a former Ramada Inn on I-35 in New Braunfels.
“This project has been a long time in the making for us,” said Dan Norville, Vivo Investment Group’s founder and chief executive officer. “It was one of our earliest Vivo Living conversion projects of taking a hotel or motel that you see here and reimagining it, re-envisioning it. It started out as a passion project for the partners at Vivo to do this in a big way — to help solve the housing crisis in the US This is one step toward that bigger goal.”
Thursday’s open house included tours of the complex, its amenities and a model apartment. Vivo acquired the property in February 2021.
The complex includes 140 units, with floor plans available of 249 square feet and 300 to 306 square feet and a one-bedroom loft plan of 687 square feet.
Apartment amenities include a microwave, refrigerator, sink disposal, air conditioning, furnished units, a cooktop and blinds.
Rental rates for the studio apartments with one bath start at around $845 a month.
“The demographics — what we’ve seen — the stats, the unaffordability that’s happening in the market, and I think we’ve found a really good way to create a win-win situation,” Norville said. “We’re coming in, recycling this building that otherwise would continue to be an underperforming hotel — a hotel that could have created more crime and nuisance in the city that now has gotten millions of dollars pumped into it and to breathe new life into this to make it something really special.”
Vivo’s concept also takes advantage of other hotel spaces, turning those into storage rooms, fitness centers, game rooms, dog parks, clubhouses and pool areas to promote a community-like atmosphere.
“At Vivo, it’s about the living community,” Norville said. “We really put a lot of time and effort into these spaces to curate them. We put in the game rooms — the areas where the residents can be social and interact, not just with the residents themselves — our biggest goal is for our residents to make friends — but also for our staff to make friends with the residents as well. “
Norville added that the complex would host community events for residents, including social events, job training classes, and resume workshops.
Community amenities also include available high-speed internet, on-site maintenance, on-site management, a laundry care center, on-site parking and wireless internet.
According to Norville, the property has already seen about 60% of its units leased. The company anticipates it will fully lease the property in three to four months.
Brett Tanimoto, Vivo partner and chief investment officer, said it’s exciting to see a project come to fruition.
“When you compare it to what it used to be to where we are today, it’s night and day,” Tanimoto said. “Before, this used to be (a building) with over 30 years of deferred maintenance and a lot of repairs needing to be made. We came in, and we changed out all the broken (heating and air conditioning) units, we did all new flooring, all new paint…it looks like a completely different property, and we added kitchens in every single unit.”
Vivo Living was founded at the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
There was already a shortage of affordable housing across the country, but job and income loss from pandemic-imposed shutdowns left more people unable to pay their rent. At the same time, business and vacation travel came to a halt, leaving many hotels on an unstable financial footing and pushing many hotel owners to consider leaving the business.
That’s when Vivo Living’s founders decided that these hotels could be reimagined and repurposed into critically needed, affordably priced rental housing.
“We’ve been doing that for the last two years,” he said. “We started the company in June 2020, and since then, we have purchased 23 hotels, over 3,500 units across the US We’re looking at the market rents of units nearby and we’re renting at about a 20% to 25% discount to what’s in the market.”
Vivo is also working on converting the former Quality Inn on I-35, which it acquired in August 2021, into a 75-unit studio apartment complex. The company anticipates completion of that project in four to six months.
Vivo’s portfolio includes 20 similar projects in various stages of development across the country.