Steve Wu likes the short-term rental model, but he and his company – Edena Urban Resorts – are not ready to give up on the human touch of a hotel.
That’s why Edena has come up with the first-ever hybrid lodging model that includes a central check in facility, and the price-point and ease of a short-term rental. Teaming up with SAMA pastries, which is based in Rhode Island, Edena + SAMA at 279 Newbury St. will act as the check in location for luxury units throughout the downtown neighborhoods.
It’s what Wu said he always hoped for when on business trips for his previous job.
“We are the first real urban resort on the plant, and we’ll be starting it in Boston on Sept. 5,” he told the Sun from the company’s new headquarters on Temple Place in Downtown Crossing. “We are bringing a very upscale product and not sacrificing the amenities and experiences and services that a hotel brings. At the same time, we are giving the option of more affordable pricing…This year we’ll have 30 units and we’re prepared to add 30 more in the early spring (of 2019). What we say is we’re morphing the best of a hotel into the short-term rental model…In the end, I don’t want to give up the human interaction in the industry. We’re getting rid of the human interaction in every other industry. I don’t think we should give up human interaction in hospitality because then it’s not hospitality anymore.”
Wu gained his experience from traveling all over the world for business. He stayed in hotels and he stayed in short-term rentals. Neither was exactly what he was looking for, and he believes most people who travel often feel the same way.
“I was a frequent short-term rental user and a frequent hotel user,” he said. “I think 200 days of the year for a couple of years I was traveling. I found after three days in a hotel, it began to be so small and not comfortable. I switched to short-term rentals. I got what I didn’t get in a hotel – more space and more room – but the quality wasn’t consistent. I also missed the amenities of a hotel. This was my lifestyle at the time. So, I began to look for an alternative to both and I found nothing. I decided to try to make a product that is the best of both.”
Wu – a native of Chicago – said they have worked with landlords and owners of units in Back Bay, Fenway, Downtown Boston, and other areas to make sure short-term rentals are allowed in the Master Leases. Edena vets the owners and they vet the clients, and help private owners not to have to deal with vacancies. They also make sure that every unit is abiding by the regulations of the City.
He said they have a number of options on price, from a 3-star unit at around $200 a night to a 5-star unit at about $500 a day – though pricing is still very preliminary right now.
A client can choose to self-check at the location of the unit, but the unique part of Edena is that they have a “hotel lobby” on Newbury Street, yet the hotel units are spread out all over the city. When a person checks in, they can either walk to the unit with staff, or a shuttle can take them to the unit.
But an ornate lobby wasn’t enough, Wu said.
He said he wanted to offer guests a place to relax when they arrive. As he was eating a pastry from SAMA, a commercial kitchen in Rhode Island which supplies many Boston restaurants with desserts, the idea hit him to bring in SAMA to Boston.
It worked for everyone, and the shop was approved this summer by the City Licensing Board.
The other part of the venture is to provide amenities and services to those staying in the units.
“What really makes a restaurant in a hotel building not like a restaurant outside the building?” he asked. “The only difference is being able to bill to your room. We decided to make that happen. We started talking to partners and they were interested. That’s how we’re connecting the dots.”
He said the services include an app that Edena has developed to easily connect guests to participating partners – whether it be museums, restaurants or convenience stores. He anticipates being able to transport guests to those places, to allow establishments to bill to the unit and to offer discounts at partnering businesses.
All of it would create a network all over Boston that he calls an “urban resort.”
“We don’t need to go out and build a large resort with our own restaurants and our own stores when we have them right here very close to all of our units,” he said. “We don’t need to create what is already there.”
And why would a native Chicagoan try Boston?
The people, he said.
“You have a big city feel here, but you also have traditional things, but it’s especially the people here,” he said. “That’s why I started here. I felt if I could make it here in Boston, it would only make sense we could be successful all over America.”
The idea is a very simple one, Wu conceded, but he said it’s one that has never been done.
“It is so simple, but I believe that’s what will make it successful,” he said. “We saw the problems in the industry and we tried to solve them. It’s simple. Helping people pursue happiness.”