Hotel/Airbnb Disrupter Sonder Expands Operation off Lower Barracks Row
by Larry Janezich
Posted May 5, 2021
Murillo/Malnati Development Group is changing the use of what was to be a 49 unit apartment building overlooking Virginia Avenue Park at 818 Potomac Avenue, SE, to what will functionally be self-service hotel. In its new incarnation, the building will be managed by the billion dollar disruptive hospitality startup Sonder, and the 49 units will join 32 short term rental units in an adjacent building at 816 Potomac Avenue also owned by Murillo/Malnati and already being operated by Sonder.
The change comes as a matter of right, but the developer has to come back to the city via ANC6B because they need a special exception for not having required loading. Although scheduled for next week’s meeting, 6B’s consideration was postponed until June, when the Zoning Adjustment Application will come before the BZA.
Sonder is a short term hospitality company that operates like a combination Airbnb and hotel. The company offers apartments like an Airbnb but in buildings they own or lease which are licensed as hotels. The rentals operate on a self-sufficiency model, but the company claims they offer the best of both of the hospitality worlds they target. Units have ready-to-cook-in kitchens and washers and dryers. So far, Sonder has apartments in 26 cities here and abroad. Sonder also operates The Avenue Flats in Del Ray, Alexandria and The Grace in Old Town, Alexandria.
As to the name: “sonder” is a Portuguese word meaning – among other things, “to probe”. But it probably comes from John Koenig’s forthcoming The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (Simon & Schuster, November 16, 2021), i.e., “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dictionary_of_Obscure_Sorrows
Here’s a piece from Business Insider on how to book through Sonder: https://www.businessinsider.com/book-sonder-rental-how-to-step-by-step-guide-2019-12