Nabr, a consumer-first housing startup that aims to bring a tech-driven, bespoke home designing and financing to the masses, has formally launched with the news that its first apartment building will debut in the summer of 2023 at 415 South 3rd Street in San Jose’s buzzy arts and culture quarter, the SoFA (South of First Area) District. While the 125-unit development, SoFA One, isn’t slated to break ground until next summer, the waitlist for prospective tenants is now live.
The new real estate venture, first teased back in August, is co-founded by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, Roni Bahar, former director of development at WeWork, and Nicolas Chim, the former head of Sidewalk’s Model Lab. Tapping into their respective chops in architecture, real estate, and technology, the three came together with a “shared vision for an improved way of urban living, defined by quality, sustainability, and attainability,” according to a press announcement. That resulting vision will be realized through a proprietary software platform that enables residents to custom-design their living spaces and a financing program that sets them on a relatively unfussy and obtainable pathway to homeownership. Nabr equates the self-customization aspect as being akin to kitting out a new electric car.
Ingels’ titular multidisciplinary design practice, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), is serving as co-designer of SoFA, and a growing roster of designers will be added down the line to the Nabr platform. The Copenhagen-founded BIG, which has its stateside office in Brooklyn, is also an investor in Nabr.
“Our goal is to pioneer a new sustainable urban lifestyle,” Ingels explained. “At SoFA One, residents have access to a Scandinavian standard of quality of life, yet they are still in the hub of Silicon Valley, America’s greatest innovation ecosystem. Residents get the best of both worlds.”
Made clear in the launch announcement is the fact that Nabr is in the business of selling housing directly to consumers and does not own real estate or operate its own production plants. Instead, the company, which describes itself as being “driven by the design vision” of Ingels, is focused on “digitizing the design process and communication with the supply chain.“ All of its net-zero emissions developments starting with SoFA One will be “high-design, yet low-impact” and feature a slew of sustainable bells and whistles including advanced air and water filtration systems, energy-efficient facades clad in View electrochromic glass, and more.
SoFA One is planned as a timber structure and individual units will feature high ceilings, panoramic windows, and private balconies. Shared amenities are set to include a rooftop park, a community garden, EV charging, bike storage, and access to wellness facilities. Per the company, ground-level retail space will be “programmed to complement the neighborhood and serve as gathering points for the community.” The downtown San Jose location is a highly desirable one, with a bevy of dining, drinking, retail, and cultural hot spots a stone’s throw away. The nearest light rail hub, the Diridon Caltrain station, is about a mile off and, of course, Silicon Valley’s tech campuses are all within a reasonable proximity.
That said, SoFA One appears oriented toward a very specific kind of prospective resident: young and upwardly mobile tech workers with discerning taste in interior design and a zeal for delving into new digital platforms. However, the larger ambitions of Nabr beyond Silicon Valley are decidedly less insular, and the company was founded in response to a very real nationwide affordable housing crisis that’s particularly acute in the Bay Area. A BIG-branded apartment development boasting a digital customize-it-yourself component may not appeal to all, but the rapid, streamlined generation of dense, transit-oriented residential development benefits everyone seeking a place to call home in a housing-strapped city.
“We founded Nabr to build a high-volume, integrated housing production system, developing the product in partnership with strategic supply chain partners from start to finish. We are starting in the Bay Area, where residents face an incredibly expensive real estate market that few can afford to buy,” said Chim. “Our long-term vision is to deliver projects in less than half the time and at price points affordable to middle-income households nationally.
Added Bahar: “The U.S is currently experiencing the worst housing crisis since World War II. Part of the problem is that there are three times the number of single-family homes built each year than there are apartments, and the vast majority of the latter are rentals. This leaves consumers only two options: pay high rent for a tiny apartment in the city, or buy a home in the suburbs. We started Nabr to change this trajectory.”
In addition to being able to custom co-design their own living spaces before being handed the keys to their new digs, residents are also offered flexible options based on their unique financial situations and how deeply they want to put down roots. Nabr units can be leased or bought and for those not ready to purchase at the onset, the company’s LEAP financing program locks in the purchase price of a residents’ home for an option period of up to five years. A 1 percent down payment is all that is needed and as noted by Nabr, LEAP enrollees benefit from market appreciation during the period and a portion of their monthly payments is applied as credit toward the purchase of their home.
In addition to announcing SoFA One, Nabr also announced that it recently closed a $14M seed funding round led by Zigg Capital, with participation from RobertWennett and DivcoWest.
While San Jose is an obvious first stop for Ingels, Bahar, and Chim on their mission to bring “quality, customizable design to the mass market,” it will be curious to see what housing-strapped city will get a new Nabr next.