VENICE, Calif. — Building and developing hotels is something entrepreneur Steve Shpilsky has always loved, everything from financing to opening a property.

Now he’s about to transform the way you sleep in a hotel, with a pod. It’s part of an experience created by Stay Open, a startup transforming unused commercial space into pod hotels and co-living properties.

What You Need To Know

  • Stay Open is a startup company transforming unused commercial space into pod hotels and co-living properties

  • The first pod-style residence is opening in Venice where travelers can stay for more than 30 days and take advantage of shared amenities

  • Stay Open plans to transform other unused commercial space such as vacant offices, which in LA has climbed to a 17% vacancy rate during the first quarter of 2021

  • CBRE’s Pacific Southwest Division president says he saw more short-term leases for office space last year but believes companies will still need space post-pandemic

Shpilsky is the CEO and co-founder and found inspiration in his past travels.

“I’ve stayed in hostels when I was younger and I traveled, and those were some of the most memorable experiences that I’ve had in my life of staying somewhere,” Shpilsky said. “Yet it was also one of the most affordable ways to travel.”

But Shpilsky points out that hostels typically lack creature comforts like privacy or nice bathrooms so his company is creating a high-end experience and incorporating sleeping pods, which are often seen in Asia.

"There is space efficiency, and it’s convenient and it’s very clean," he said. "So we said, 'Let’s take some of those concepts but make them a lot more, give them a lot more of a softer feel, so really put emphasis on the mattresses. Make them bigger. Put emphasis on the linens. Think about lighting.'"

Stay Open is preparing to open its first pod-style residence in Venice where travelers can stay for more than 30 days, take advantage of shared amenities like bathrooms, workspaces, a kitchen and living room. Shpilsky hopes to eventually do the same with other unused commercial space across the country. The company is already in the process of converting a Budget Rent a Car facility in San Diego into a pod hotel with 240 beds.

Stay Open’s plan comes as commercial spaces and office buildings sit empty during the pandemic. In greater Los Angeles, office vacancy climbed to 17% during the first quarter of 2021 according to commercial real estate firm CBRE, the highest during the pandemic.

Pacific Southwest Division President Lew Horne explained how he saw more short-term leases for office space last year.

“Our larger office clients just extended for one, two or three years. Primarily because they didn’t know what the market was going to do but most importantly, they didn’t know what to build,” Horne said.

But Horne added how that is starting to change as he sees larger firms giving flexibility to employees but want to bring an office culture back eventually. He also says retail and hospitality industries were hit hard during the pandemic but there was a lot of demand for industrial spaces such as warehouses, mostly from e-commerce companies stocking goods for customers. 

But when it comes to offices, Horne believes companies will still need them in some capacity, post-pandemic.

"I think it’s going to be rethinking the way we are using office space and also, rethinking the habits that we have relative to having everyone come in at a nine to five position during the week," he said.

Shpilsky is rethinking space completely by hoping people will work, stay and play in an environment meant to foster memories and connections among travelers.

“The ultimate goal is for people to be sitting in a room like this with their phones down and actually interacting,” he said. “And meeting someone that they came across and travelers from all over the world.”