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Co-living startup Bungalow moves into Wicker Park, Bucktown

Bungalow COO Justin McCarty and CEO Andrew Collins with a unit advertised by Bungalow in Bucktown and Wicker Park

Bungalow, a San Francisco-based startup that master leases houses and apartment buildings as co-living spaces, is expanding to Chicago.

Fresh off a $14 million Series A funding round earlier this year, Bungalow announced Thursday it’s chosen Chicago to be its eighth market. The long-term goal is to create a global brand, co-founder and COO Justin McCarty said.

McCarty, a former business operations manager at Uber, launched Bungalow with now-CEO Andrew Collins in early 2018 and began signing up renters in Palo Alto, California. They’ve since expanded to Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Seattle, Portland and Washington, D.C.

Unlike Quarters, a 175-bed co-living facility operated out of a single Fulton Market location by Berlin-based Medici Living Group, Bungalow contracts with the owners of houses and small apartment buildings to rent them out, McCarty said.

“We create a turn-key experience with a furnished common area, to make people feel like they have a place to put their feet up,” McCarty said.

The company provides a smart TV, free WiFi and kitchen supplies in every unit but leaves the bedrooms bare, he added.

Bungalow advertises rooms in Wicker Park and Bucktown between $700 and $900 per month. The company chose the Near Northwest Side neighborhoods for their packed retail strips and access to the CTA Blue Line, McCarty said.

The firm mostly advertises to young transplants and recent college graduates, organizing social programming to help residents build new networks of friends.

Bungalow faces competition from Common, a New York-based startup that advertises rooms in furnished apartments in Ukrainian Village, Pilsen and Lakeview.

But Collins and McCarty planted their Chicago flag ahead of competitors Ollie and WeLive, which so far have not branched into the Midwest.

Co-living has been posed as a cheap short-term living arrangement for young renters who don’t want to commit to a standard lease, but the concept has struggled to gain a foothold in most cities. WeWork predicted in 2014 that WeLive would house 6,500 residents by 2016, but as of this year it operates just two locations.

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