All the comforts of an apartment-hotel at Stay Alfred at 505

The living area in a one-bedroom unit at Stay Alfred at 505.
The living area in a one-bedroom unit at Stay Alfred at 505. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski

NASHVILLE -- Despite accounting for a relatively small slice of the hospitality pie, the apartment-hotel sector, which aims to bridge the gap between a traditional hotel and a short-term rental, is booming. 

Alluding to a wave of recent entrants into the space, including homesharing giant Airbnb, Eric Anderson, vice president of marketing for apartment-hotel company Stay Alfred, said, "We're a little in awe of how, in even just the last few months, this apartment-hotel segment has really come on the radar. We definitely think there's room for more than one player in the market, and we expect to see multiple winners."

Launched in Spokane, Wash., in 2011, Stay Alfred has emerged as one of the apartment-hotel segment's better-established startups. With more than 2,000 units across 33 U.S. cities, the brand has agreements with residential developers to either lease an entire building or a sizable portion of a building, then convert that space into professionally managed private accommodations that are compliant with short-term rental laws. 

A third, smaller-scale option has Stay Alfred taking over as few as six units in a complex. 

According to Anderson, however, the partial-building model is the one that has proven particularly appealing for developers, guests and residents alike. He cited the success of the company's Stay Alfred at 505 complex, which operates 140 units on 10 floors of a 45-floor luxury residential building in downtown Nashville. Opened in 2017, it has the company's largest footprint within a single building.

One-bedroom units at the Stay Alfred at 505 average about $225 per night, excluding fees, for June.

"Stay Alfred at 505 is an example of a location where we're operating at enough scale that it's efficient for us to have the full staff there 24/7, a front desk and a separate lobby to make things easier for residents," Anderson said. "Rather than surreptitiously sneaking into a building, we've made it a priority to have good relationships with residents. We introduce ourselves, answer questions about safety and start a dialogue."

The units at Stay Alfred at 505 feature full kitchens.
The units at Stay Alfred at 505 feature full kitchens. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski

The company also offers residents perks such as a "green ticket," which gives them a 15% discount at any Stay Alfred.

Indeed, a general sense of goodwill between guests and residents was apparent during my own recent two nights at the Stay Alfred at 505. Residents were friendly, engaging in polite small talk on elevator rides, and despite Nashville's reputation for being a party town, guests were remarkably well behaved.

On one evening during my visit, a small concert was held on the building's pool deck, offering both guests and residents a chance to mingle over cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and live music. 

Communal events aside, I credit much of the peaceful cohabitation to the sheer number of on-site building staff readily available. Throughout my visit, the front desk and valet area were always staffed, and employees could frequently be spotted throughout the common areas, making sure shared space was spotless and pool rules were strictly followed.

When Yelp reviews proved overwhelming, Stay Alfred staff pointed me to a respectable barbecue joint, and when I briefly locked myself out of my room, a lobby attendee was quick to come to my rescue.

A flyer slipped under my door even informed me that Stay Alfred staff could collect and store my bags upon checkout. In fact, the only discernible staffing difference between the Stay Alfred at 505 and a traditional hotel was the lack of daily housekeeping. 

Of course, what Stay Alfred touts as its primary differentiator is its apartment-style accommodations. I stayed in a one-bedroom unit equipped with everything you'd expect to find in a well-managed, short-term vacation rental: a full kitchen with basic cookware, dishes and utensils; a dining table seating four; a separate living area with a television; a coffeemaker; and an in-unit washer and dryer.

The split between hotel and short-term rental appears to have struck a chord. Anderson estimated that some 31% of Stay Alfred's guests have booked with the brand more than once, a high return-guest rate, while over the past year, the share of direct online bookings grew from 20% to 35%, suggesting growing brand awareness.

"Our goal, really, is to add no more than six more markets in this calendar year," Anderson said. "In the long run, we see ourselves adding no more than 15 to 20 more markets domestically, and then, for reasons of operational efficiency, it makes sense for us just to grow within that footprint."

The pool deck at the complex, which also offers a tennis court, pickleball court, putting green and dog run.
The pool deck at the complex, which also offers a tennis court, pickleball court, putting green and dog run. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski

He added that the company is also focusing on building its corporate travel business and is open to working with travel advisors. Stay Alfred already lists units on OTAs as well as on Airbnb, HomeAway and TripAdvisor. 

And Anderson said Stay Alfred isn't ruling out overseas expansion.

"We're contemplating Prague as our first point of entry," he said. "In general, our strategy in Europe will be to focus on great destinations that are a little bit secondary. So rather than go into Berlin first, we'd probably go to Dresden. Cities where there's a lot of opportunity, but it might not be as difficult from a regulatory standpoint."

Correction: Stay Alfred launched in Spokane, Wash.

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