Earlier this month, The Student Hotel announced that it had appointed Ilya Tabachinskiy as its first UK commercial development director to spearhead its expansion into the British market.
Formerly the developments director at Vinci, he will be tasked with identifying sites for the Dutch-headquartered firm’s hybrid student accommodation, hotel and co-working properties.
Property Week spoke to Tabachinskiy to find out more about The Student Hotel’s model and what its plans are in the UK.
The company builds, develops and operates its own schemes and currently has 4,400 rooms open in 12 locations across mainland Europe and a further 6,326 rooms in the pipeline. It aims to have 65 properties operational, under construction or planned in European cities in the next five years.
Although the company was founded in Amsterdam in 2006, it also has roots in the UK. It was set up by Scottish entrepreneur Charlie MacGregor, whose family started building student accommodation for the University of Edinburgh in the 1980s.
Tabachinskiy has only been in the role since late October, but he has already visited all The Student Hotel’s locations across Europe.
The company describes its properties as “boundary-blurring spaces where students, travellers, mobile professionals, creative nomads and enterprising minds [can] connect in smart design co-living and co-working spaces”.
Tabachinskiy says: “We have a unique, hybrid product. It is open to everybody.”
Alongside student rooms, facilities typically also include communal living areas; co-working space under The Student Hotel’s in-house brand, Co-Labs; meeting rooms known as ‘classrooms’; and cafés that are open to the public. One of the properties in Amsterdam even has its own lecture hall. The firm flexes the amount of space given over to each of these amenities depending on the market.
In terms of its aspirations for the UK, Tabachinskiy says: “If we get four or five [sites] delivered and operational in the next few years we will be happy. But if we see an opportunity for growth, we won’t hold back. We are currently looking at a few sites in the UK and negotiations are well advanced on some of those.”
The average property has between 400 and 500 rooms in a building, but Tabachinskiy says they will go larger, pointing to an 891-unit property in Vienna. The average size is between 160,000 sq ft and 215,000 sq ft.
“We are looking at a range of types of buildings, from conversions to taking over existing hotels to new-builds,” Tabachinskiy adds. “Our preference is to purchase outright, but it will depend on the deal.” Existing properties in Europe include a converted 1960s office block in Amsterdam, a listed former palazzo in Florence and new-builds in Berlin and Rome.
Unsurprisingly, The Student Hotel will be targeting university cities. “We will look at locations with strong Russell Group universities, but also good tourism locations – the ideal site has a good demographic for both,” he says. “We could be in a central district of the city and the model could adapt to that, or we could be further out in a former industrial area undergoing regeneration.”
Tabachinskiy is used to the latter type of scheme thanks to his background at Vinci, where he worked on New Covent Garden Market and the Harlow Science Park. “I understand how important that first piece of the puzzle is,” he says, adding that The Student Hotel could have a “ripple effect” on other schemes.
The Student Hotel’s model will be new to many planning departments – but Tabachinskiy is not worried about getting the green light for schemes.
“Local authorities have a community driver, and we believe we cater to that because we do create communities, we provide big footfall and we activate areas,” he says, adding that it can help avoid an “us and them” environment between students and locals. “It’s not a secluded campus environment, and everyone else who comes in thrives on the atmosphere that the young people bring,” he adds.
If The Student Hotel makes good on its expansion plans, that atmosphere could be coming to UK cities sooner rather than later.