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Virgin✈️ Disney🐭 Blackstone◼️🪨

Hospitality, Senior Living & Multifamily Housing News March 2022
Ello Gov’na! 👋
Virgin Hotels Is Openings Its First Property in Europe

Since Virgin Hotels opened its first location in Chicago in 2015, it has made its way into four other U.S. cities: Dallas, Las Vegas, Nashville, and New Orleans. But this spring, the brand will hop the Atlantic Ocean, making its European debut with a pair of Scottish properties in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

While the official spring opening date has not yet been set, Virgin Hotels Edinburgh will debut first in the capital city’s Old Town area close to The Royal Mile. Located in the historic India Buildings, first built in 1864, this outpost will have 225 rooms and multiple dining options.

the coffee shop at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh

The brand describes the location’s ethos as “unmistakably Virgin,” in a statement released to Travel + Leisure, meaning that it will preserve the local cultural traditions, but with all the modern-day upgrades and luxurious elements that the Virgin products embody, along with colors that are “soft and muted, tactical and relaxing.” Of note are the Eve Branson suite, an ode to company founder Richard Branson’s late mother. Located under the bell tower of a restored medieval church and lit with a classy light installation, the bed sits under the spire, giving it bragging rights as the “unofficial tallest canopy bed in the world.” Also on the property is Richard’s Flat, another suite named after the founder himself with a lounge, bar area, and soaking tub.

Dining at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh

Also on-site is the Commons Club<, which the brand calls a “modern social club where guests can both work and play during their time at the hotel.” Here, red is the standout shade, reminiscent of a vintage train carriage with a sweeping red sofa wrapping the room, red walls, and a deep-red ceiling with gold cornice details. The Commons Club L5 Restaurant & Kitchen is a stark change of scenery with stone walls and archways, as well as an exposed wine cellar, while the Junction space is one of juxtaposition, merging contemporary and heritage features.

There will also be an outpost of the Funny Library Coffee Shop, with areas for working and socializing while enjoying coffee from Hugh Jackman’s java brand, Laughing Man Coffee. This location has two distinct parts to it: the coffee counter is in a link bridge, while the library and lounge are in the India Buildings with books surrounding the room, plus a central fireplace to cement a cozy feel. And each book is chosen with thought, as they are “locally sourced and feature irreverent and whimsical titles with games and oddities sprinkled throughout.” The Virgin Hotel Edinburgh will also feature a large multifunctional gathering space called Cowgate that it describes as “raw and honest” with both elements of greenery and a mural wrapping around the walls.


The library at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh

As for the second European outpost of Virgin Hotels, it will open later this spring in Glasgow. This property is of personal significance to founder Richard Branson, as it’s where his wife, Joan, is from. The personal tie is reflected in the choice location, right in the city center at 236-246 Clyde Street, featuring panoramic views of the River Clyde. Sitting in the middle of Glasgow’s shopping district, next to St. Enoch Shopping Centre and walking distance to Buchanan Street, the riverside hotel is also in close proximity to the Gallery of Modern Art and Glasgow Central station. Virgin Hotels Glasgow will house 242 rooms, split between the brand’s Chamber and Grand Chamber Suites offerings. Each has a Dressing Room area, which is a hallway, closet, and bathroom rolled into one, as well as a Sleeping Lounge, designed for working or just chilling out.

The exterior of Virgin Hotels Edinburgh


On the other side of the Atlantic, the 38-floor Virgin Hotels New York City — complete with a rooftop pool and bar — is prepping for a summer opening at 1227 Broadway near Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. Also in the works is Virgin Hotels Miami in the city’s Financial District, scheduled for a 2025 opening.

“Virgin Hotels has established a beloved brand amongst many, always ensuring that all offerings embrace and showcase the local community culture for all travelers to enjoy; and this property will surely do the same,” Branson said of the Glasgow location.

The (Senior) House of Mouse 🏠🐭
Disney to Develop Senior Housing Neighborhoods

First came Jimmy Buffett — and now, another famous name in entertainment is getting involved in the 55+ senior housing trend.

Last week, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) announced plans for “Storyliving by Disney,” a master-planned community concept with a variety of neighborhoods, including some for residents age 55 or older.

Though Disney’s early concept also includes housing for a range of ages including older adults, it is no doubt looking to create something at least somewhat similar to Minto Communities’ Latitude Margaritaville brand, which has seen a surge of interest amid the pandemic.

Disney is building its first Storyliving community — dubbed Cotino — in Rancho Mirage, California, where the company said its founder and namesake Walt Disney owned a home. The company also has plans to explore other markets for future development.

While the Cotino community’s development is still in its early stages, the final product will include condominiums, single-family homes and personal “estates,” with at least one section set aside for 55+ residents. Planned amenities include a roughly 24-acre “grand oasis” with lagoons and a waterfront clubhouse, private beach area and Disney programming, entertainment and activities.

Other onsite features include a mixed-use district with shopping, dining and entertainment along with a beachfront hotel and a park with recreational water activities. Disney employees will staff the community, and residents belonging to a voluntary private club will have access to curated experiences including wellness programming, classes and live entertainment and seminars.

Disney is developing the site with DMB Development, “which is highly regarded for its development of large-scale planned communities in the U.S.,” according to the entertainment company.

“As we prepare to enter our second century, we are developing new and exciting ways to bring the magic of Disney to people wherever they are, expanding storytelling to storyliving,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks Experiences and Products. “We can’t wait to welcome residents to these beautiful and unique Disney communities where they can live their lives to the fullest.”

Like Disney, Minto has its eye on other markets for expanding the Latitude Margaritaville brand beyond its current sites in South Carolina and Florida. Those include Texas and other markets farther west.

Given its surge in demand amid the pandemic, leaders with Minto believe the Latitude Margaritaville brand is well-positioned to grow in the future as prospective residents seek out “food, fun, music and escapism” amid tough times. The same tailwinds would likely apply to a future Disney senior housing community.

Blackstone Real Estate Launches Affordable Housing Company
Industry veteran Alice Carr will serve as CEO of April Housing.

Blackstone is extending its affordable housing reach with the launch of a portfolio company and the hiring of industry veteran Alice Carr.

Alice Carr
Alice Carr

The firm announced the formation of April Housing to serve as a provider of solutions and capital for the creation and preservation of high-quality affordable housing throughout the United States. April Housing will oversee and preserve affordability of an initial portfolio of over 90,000 housing units recently acquired by Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT).

The move comes after BREIT recently took over the interests in a huge affordable housing portfolio from American International Group (AIG). The firm recently closed on a $5.1 billion sale involving approximately 80,000 units across more than 650 assets nationwide.

April Housing’s commitment to preserving the affordability of this critical housing stock on a long-term basis is made possible by BREIT’s perpetual capital structure, announced the company. Rents at virtually all of the April Housing properties are set by government regulation through the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program. The rent restrictions have, on average, 20 years of remaining term, and Blackstone intends to keep them affordable for the long term.


In conjunction with the creation of the new portfolio company, Blackstone has named Carr as CEO of April Housing, effective May 2. Carr, who brings more than 25 years of industry experience to the role, will be responsible for leading all aspects of April Housing’s strategy and operations, furthering Blackstone’s commitment to preserving and expanding the supply of affordable housing.

“The need for quality affordable housing has never been greater, and I’m honored to step into this role to identify innovative solutions and bring additional capital to the affordable housing crisis,” Carr said. “Blackstone’s unwavering dedication to this space is clear, and I am energized and excited by the opportunity to work alongside a truly best-in-class team to preserve and expand the affordable housing stock in the U.S.”

She joins April Housing from JPMorgan Chase, where she most recently served as head of community development banking and led a team that financed the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing to both low-income families and seniors across the U.S. At Chase, Carr served as a member of the Inclusionary Leadership Forum for the Commercial Bank and was the executive sponsor of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council for the Commercial Real Estate Business. She also served on the executive leadership committee for the firm’s Racial Equity Commitment. In addition, Carr serves on the board of directors for Enterprise Community Investment and Enterprise Community Loan Fund. She began her career at the Low Income Investment Fund, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution focused on affordable housing and small business lending.

Kathleen McCarthy, global co-head of Blackstone Real Estate, said “Alice’s skillset, experiences, and distinguished track record in affordable housing make her the ideal leader for April Housing. Her mission-driven values are highly aligned with Blackstone’s approach to housing and will be invaluable as we work to extend the affordability programs in our portfolio and expand the country’s affordable housing supply.”

Over the next decade, April Housing intends to invest over $500 million to improve communities while maintaining the affordability of the properties, according to Blackstone officials, who said “April Housing is committed to providing best-in-class management, improvements to properties, and support to residents.”

The company is headquartered in Los Angeles and will oversee the affordable housing assets previously acquired from AIG and The Cornerstone Group. These communities are located throughout the U.S. in cities including Austin, Texas; Dallas; Denver; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; and San Francisco.

Officials explained that “April,” which means “to open,” aligns with Blackstone’s goal of opening new paths to preserve and expand the supply of affordable housing.

Source: Multifamily Executive Magazine

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