Learn how Sentral is setting a new standard for flexible living, travel, and work.
By Liz Sheldon
The arrival of Sentral comes in the midst of a huge shift in how people live, work, and think about home. Digital nomads are creating a new paradigm for working on the go, and the desire to explore the world without being tied down has led to more movement between cities.
Sentral CEO Jon Slavet
knows that even the most adventurous spirits crave connection and a sense of belonging.
With locations in Austin, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and Seattle, Sentral’s ambitious mission is to redefine what home and community can mean. That encompasses everything from a first-of-its-kind technology platform to thoughtfully designed spaces — all designed to make flexibility and freedom a lifestyle choice, not a luxury. In the conversation below, Slavet, who previously served as CWeO for US & Canada West at WeWork, delves into what Sentral aims to accomplish its goals — and what the future holds.
Sentral CEO Jon Slavet
Let’s start with the key question: How is Sentral evolving the existing meaning of home?
Our vision is to create the world's largest flexible living community. To do that, you have to redefine what home means. The traditional concept of home could be where I grew up, or where my partner and I live, or where my stuff is. We believe that home is when you belong. Not where, but when. That when is very intentional, because it's a feeling, not a place.
In practice, we're aggregating beautiful communities across the country — and, ultimately, across the world — where you can stay for any length of time, whether it's for one night or for years -- and have a consistent experience wherever you are. Our Sentral team is always of service to you. You're also going to have consistent amenities across all these communities. We hope that “Sentraling” comes to mean the idea of living, working, or traveling on your own terms.
What are the different ways you can experience Sentral?
We have two products, Live and Stay. Live is 30 days or more, while Stay is 29 days or less. But the experience is much the same, because you have full access to the community regardless of your length of stay. That means walkable neighborhoods in the best cities, amenities like the pool deck and fitness center — which will be orders of magnitude better than what you’d get in a hotel — and our design.
Live customers can bring their own belongings or move into one of our beautiful designer-furnished units, created in partnership with a leading hospitality design firm. We’ve seen a huge demand for this offering, so upwards of 40% of all of our units will be designer-furnished by the end of next year. Also, starting next year we’ll be offering pieces à la carte, so you could just have the amazing couch and we’ll add a monthly cost to your lease.
Community also seems to be at the core of the Sentral message. How would you describe that aspect of the brand?
We’re actively building community through events and activations that you're not going to find in typical hotels or apartment buildings. That may mean a consistent ritual across all communities every Thursday night, such as a wine exploration event. We might also have events hosted by a resident — for instance, a few of our L.A. residents are in the floral business, and offered an amazing display of flowers in our lobbies. We also offer a resident app that brings communities together around common interests and facilitates all kinds of connections.
Sentral Explorer Experiences builds deep connections and opportunities for learning. Photo of Sentral DTLA 755 Chef's Kitchen by James Baigrie.
Even though it’s a diverse community, do you find there’s a common mindset, or shared values, between Sentral residents and guests?
We're for the explorers. Our Live customers also want to travel and stay in other locations — it’s just part of their lifestyle. We're building our communities to accommodate people who can say “I live in this building,” as well as people who are just staying for a short period. There's great serendipity in that: If I'm Staying, and I attend an event with residents, it’s an awesome opportunity for me to connect with locals, who may become my guides to the city — or even end up becoming friends. And if I’m a resident and I travel to another location, I’m rubbing shoulders with people who are already a part of the Sentral community. So there’s that sense of connectivity for all.
In what other ways is Sentral erasing the difference between an apartment building and a hotel?
You’re reading this on Sentral.com, which is the first site where you can visit and book any length of stay in an apartment building. It’s a new paradigm that’s blurring the lines between what the hotel and apartment building experiences currently look like.
Everyone wants to feel connected. The typical hotel experience is disconnected in a lot of ways, and the typical apartment building with 12-month leases on each unit is not focused on building community. So as we build this network, we'll have more opportunities to connect people and more destinations to visit. Today we have nine buildings in six cities, but that will be growing rapidly.
You’re probably not supposed to play favorites, but are there certain locations you gravitate towards?
My two favorite neighborhoods are probably
Wynwood in Miami
and Sixth Street in Austin, where we have two locations,
East Austin at 1614 E. Sixth
East Austin at 1630 E. Sixth
. Both areas are so up-and-coming and authentic. Wynwood is a very eclectic neighborhood: You’ve got amazing street graffiti, and small homes that convert to restaurants at night serving authentic Latin American food, and nightclubs with local bands playing. It’s just amazing.
Miami’s Wynwood Walls, with a mural by RETNA in the background. Photo by Sonya Revell.
East Sixth Street is quintessential Austin. It's small in scale, but very vibrant with amazing walkability and neighborhood restaurants and bars — you really feel like you’re in the mix.
Let’s talk about work. How is Sentral poised to accommodate a digital nomad lifestyle?
Living and travel will never be the same coming out of COVID, and neither will work. If you're a knowledge worker, you can work from wherever you want now.
We are actively converting two-bedroom apartments into a combination of work-from-home and living space — a sit-stand desk, a monitor, a stylish office chair.
We’re also making every common space as functional as possible for coworking. The prototype is the Grand Hall at our
Sentral Union Station
location in Denver. It includes a pool table, shared bench desks for coworking, a glassed-in conference space, and soft seating areas where you can have an intimate conversation. That's the ultimate mix, because it enables socializing, getting work done, and having fun.
Grand Hall at Union Station, Denver CO
Can you share any glimpses into what’s next?
In addition to new locations, we will roll out a membership program in 2022, regardless of your length of stay. Membership will include access to our traveler program and get you benefits, so the more you Stay and Live with us, the greater your benefit. You’ll also see even more of those à la carte options — a range of on-demand services and ways to outfit your unit, all available through the app.
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