Here’s an alternative to both a hotel and an Airbnb: a pop-up hotel. That’s the concept that startup WhyHotel has introduced to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore and hopes to expand across the country.
Last year, WhyHotel began operating these pop-up hotels within newly-built luxury rental apartment buildings that have yet to lease out all their units.
Once a building is completed, it can take a year or two to fill up. WhyHotel has swooped in to offer owners the ability to make money off their empty units.
Guests, in turn, can enjoy amenities of the apartment. Some, such as pools, gyms or dry-cleaning services, might even overlap with services offered at a hotel.
“We’re blurring the line between hospitality and home,” says Jason Fudin, WhyHotel’s CEO. “It’s a home experience, but the service is akin to that of traditional hospitality.”
Guests can reserve a unit online directly through WhyHotel or even on booking websites such as Expedia. Like they would if they booked at any hotel, they get an email notification. A day before check-in, they get another email giving them the access code to the building or directions on how to get buzzed up.
“It feels like you’re hosted at a home and less like you’re running through a commercial machine,” Fudin says.
The first WhyHotel pop-up lasted for five months last year at The Bartlett in Washington. The pop-up had 50 units. The entire building has 699 units. After 60 days, the pop-up had an occupancy rate of 85 to 90 percent. A second pop-up opened in Baltimore on June 28 at 225 North Calvert Street, a redeveloped Bank of America office. WhyHotel turned 158 one- and two-bedroom units – nearly half the building – into a hotel that will stay open until fall 2019 or whenever the developer can lease the units.
The latest pop-up in Washington is now accepting online reservations in anticipation of its October opening. The 95-unit pop-up will be located at Equity Residential’s newly completed 222-unit property at 100 K Street NE in the NoMa neighborhood. The hotel is expected to run through spring 2019.
“We believe welcoming WhyHotel to our 100K Street will offer people visiting the NoMa neighborhood the chance to experience our newly completed luxury community while providing a unique amenity that our residents and potential residents can also enjoy and at the same time create incremental value as we lease up this terrific property,” says Benjamin Stoll, vice president of development at Equity Residential.
Residents will get some perks as well. They can enjoy some hotel functions such as linen service, and when relatives or friends are visiting, they will get discounts on units. Potential renters will also get a discount for staying at the property while considering signing a lease.
Each building has its own set of amenities. For instance, the Baltimore pop-up has a pool, gym, game room and conference rooms. The new Washington pop-up has a ground floor courtyard, a rooftop, gym and resident lounge.
The units range in size from studios to one bedrooms, two bedrooms and three bedrooms, depending on the building. They have all the same features many people have at home, such as an Amazon Alexa and a large flat-screen TV guests can use to stream their Netflix or Hulu shows.
“They’re furnished with all the things you expect in a modern apartment,” Fudin says.
Rates will vary depending on the market. At the Baltimore hotel, one bedrooms are going for $125 and two bedrooms for $218 a night. In the new D.C. hotel, the rates will range from $150 to $300 for studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.
Fudin says they can charge a decent premium because “these are the newest and nicest buildings in the city.”
The company recently received $3.94 million in seed funding, which it will use toward opening one or two more hotels this year and another six to 12 next year.
Copyright 2018, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Nancy Trejos