Some cities are student cities. Student cities have relatively low rents, high vacancy rates and thousands upon thousands of students descending on them every year, many of them newcomers, just as many seeking a place to live. Dorms only go so far, and not everyone is into dorm life. Leeds is a student city. Montréal is student city. Boston is a student city. Hong Kong is a student city. There are 120,000 students enrolled in five universities in the SAR, and that doesn’t include the ones at specialised post-secondary institutes. And they have to live somewhere in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Campus HK is located within the Bay Bridge Hong Kong Hotel & Serviced Apartment in Tsuen Wan, which hospitality group GCP took over two years ago. With stock so hard to come by, the property was renovated and split into its component parts. Most developers would target the business sector but GCP saw a hole in the market it thought it could fill. “Campus HK is an innovative new concept — a first for the Hong Kong market … There is simply nothing else here that meets international demand for contemporary, affordable home-away-from-homes for students — whether from Hong Kong, China or further afield,” said general manager Peter Pfister in a statement. “[We have] over 25 years experience in managing and operating hospitality projects and with the right understanding of the market and the high demand from students coming to Hong Kong we believe that Campus HK will fill in a gap in this particular segment,” adds Marc Bichet, vice-president of marketing and branding for GCP.
Campus HK, which shares double loaded corridors with the serviced suites, was guided by design, functionality and privacy in its conception. The rooms are modern and young, and largely self-contained. Residents should be able to sleep or relax without being disturbed by others and vice versa. Above all, “The rooms are functional, as each student has their own dedicated bed, desk, wardrobe, lightning … They can easily store and arrange their belongings in dedicated areas while the room’s communal areas give enough space for all students to share and mingle. Bathrooms, showers and kitchenette have been separated from the main living space while the communal table has been set as a prime feature to give the opportunity to connect,” Bichet says.
Campus HK offers shared accommodation in 660-square foot rooms, divided into four bed-study enclaves. The rooms are outfitted with retro fridges in the kitchenettes, and rent includes WiFi, housekeeping, utilities and complimentary shuttle bus services (to CityU, Lingnan University). Storage is at a premium in Hong Kong, and it’s Campus HK’s biggest shortcoming. Aside from a two-drawer dresser, desk drawers (all lockable) and an open hanging rod, the other storage is all open shelves. There’s no place for large items (like suitcases) unless by special arrangement with Bay Bridge, where they will put it in their parking area.
Another downside to the space is its distance from student-friendly neighbourhoods, as well as major universities. Shopping amenities are few and far between in the area, and campus socialising is nearly impossible. That said, GCP has thought to include what it calls The Link, a state-of-the-art social hub with views of Hong Kong, accessible to all residents, whether they want to play games, sit and gossip or just zone out. Campus HK also offers a fitness centre, seasonal swimming pool and sun deck overlooking the Ma Wan Channel — suitable for quiet reading or socialising. An all day dining café in the lobby is set to open in mid-autumn and a Campus Guru is on site to work like a student’s concierge.
There’s more to Campus HK than simply filling a gap. Bichet is quick to point out the rooms are open to local and international students as well as anyone travelling to Hong Kong for management training or internships, many of which are unpaid. At $15,000 per room (or $4,000 per bed), it’s an affordable option for those without fat corporate budgets. (Rates are expected to go up in January.) As of May, response has been strong, and Bichet doesn’t anticipate any trouble in filling all 192 beds. “We believe that Campus HK will answer to an increasing demand and that the product will comply with a new kind of long-stay traveller. Students are more design-driven and look for an accommodation where they don’t only sleep but get to mingle and socialise,” theorises Bichet. And further to that, rather than competing in the rental market that’s tough to crack for students, Campus HK will likely eat into the hostel sector, which to this point has underpinned local universities’ dormitory shortfall (yes, supply suffers there too). For a similar price point, students and travellers alike get superior housing. Students can opt to take entire rooms for themselves, and there are no age restrictions, but all tenants must have a valid student card.
To answer the unspoken question, Bichet argues that Campus HK is not, in fact, a dorm. Among the differences is that Campus HK saddles renters with fewer roommates (which Bichet claims can range up to eight in dormitories), offers more in-room amenities and study space. Each student’s little corner can be personalised however they like argues Bichet, effectively providing more autonomy. The bed-spaces are designed unlike standard dorms and comprise enough electrical outlets and USB ports to charge all standard devices. “We know that the new generation is super-tech savvy and in need of several power outlets. The extra shelving at the bed area also enables them to have their belongings within easy reach without needing to get out of bed,” he finishes. If Campus HK works, demand remains and, most crucially, the opportunity presents itself, GCP will indeed roll out more properties like it in the future.