Sonder opens first Airbnb-hotel hybrid in Denver

US: San Francisco-based hospitality startup Sonder has opened its first hotel-Airbnb hybrid in Denver after it secured the required licence earlier this month.

The startup has gained the lease for the entire building in Uptown Denver, which will be renamed as The Essex.

The three-storey building, built in 1908, used to be a hostel but was closed due to fire code violations in 2016. Last year however, Denver-based developer GM Development purchased it for $2.1 million and began its renovation project for the hybrid property.

Speaking to BusinessDen, Sonder spokesman Mason Harrison said: “The opportunity to bring a tech-driven model of hospitality to this old, historical part of the city and partner with a developer to bring old and new together, that was so attractive to us.”

It is not the first time Sonder has looked to renovate old buildings and convert them into short-term rentals.

In New Orleans, the company has partnered with a developer to renovate a block of units along Canal Street that were damaged by fire, while in Chicago, Sonder recently opened up in a former boarding school.

Guests booking rooms at The Essex will be able to choose between eight two-bedroom and 11 one-bedroom units. They will be able to book through Sonder’s website or via hotel booking sites.

The Sonder app has now been launched for guests to easily request a late checkout, schedule cleaning or connect to the building’s wifi. Harrison said that each unit is equipped with laundry facilities, keyless locks and Bluetooth speakers.

Meanwhile, Sonder will have an onsite employee to assist guests with check-in procedures and any other concierge services. There also will be a communal area for breakfasts and other snacks for guests.

Harrison said: “Obviously we’re the type of company where we don’t have to have someone always there. Your check-in is never required to be done at a physical desk at a Sonder.”

While Sonder self-identifies as a hotel / Airbnb hybrid, it is more the former in the eyes of the city. Eric Escudero, spokesman for the city’s “Department of Excise and Licenses”, told BusinessDen that Sonder had received a lodging facility licence for its spot in Uptown Denver.

A traditional hotel would not receive such a licence however Airbnb listings typically do require a short-term rental licence, and Denver only gives those out to individuals renting out a primary residence.

Sonder, which operates in 18 markets and has 170 employees in Denver, now offers rooms, joining cities like London, Rome and Montreal. Harrison said the average nightly rate across all of Sonder’s destinations is $129.

Since launching in the Denver market, Sonder last year leased 30,000 square feet of warehouse and office space in Thornton for a customer service hub. The startup has also leased warehouse space at the former headquarters of survival gear company, Survival Frog.

The company now has plans to expand its unit offering in Denver, although Harrison said only that the company was waiting on permits and additional logistics.

He said: “It would be impossible to speculate how many units we’d have by the end of the year. We hope it’s a lot.

“We think that Denver obviously has become such a huge hub of hospitality. It was just a question of when, not if, we’d expand there,” he added.

For more information, visit the Sonder website here.

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