Reminiscent of artist lofts, these affordable living spaces will give creatives a space to connect and build.

Co-living the dream: STRT aims to be the future of housing and entrepreneurship

Reminiscent of artist lofts, these affordable living spaces will give creatives a space to connect and build.

In startup culture, a space where ambitious minds can work together to ideate, innovate and create is crucial. Gore-Tex was created in a basement; Amazon in a garage. Ideas need to be brought to life somewhere, but not everyone has access to a place to meet—and paying attention to closing times and hauling materials to retailers offering meeting spaces can become exhausting. Enter STRT, a startup co-founded by Utah entrepreneur Victor Gill

“STRT is an economical solution to get your housing workspace, community space and all the services necessary to activate you to chase your dreams in one spot,” he says. 

The concept for STRT is reminiscent of artist lofts—affordable housing spaces often located in warehouse-type facilities where artists live and work. But while the goal is to make its living spaces as affordable as possible, what STRT will offer is distinctly different both in the demographic it hopes to serve and in its potential for longevity, Gill says. 

“It’s not just for artists. It’s for all creatives, all startups, all entrepreneurs,” he says. “If you look where artist lofts have been historically, those end up being some of the most culturally significant neighborhoods of any major city. But what ends up happening 10 years after they’re there is the artist lofts are gone—the area’s been gentrified. When we looked at STRT, we wanted to do something that had sufficiently large scale that it could endure even after the neighborhood’s made.”

As an adjunct instructor for the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, Gill has spent the majority of his career working in and around startups. After working in Silicon Valley, the epicenter for startup businesses, he returned to Salt Lake City and began teaching what he learned in the Bay Area to students hoping to bring their own ideas to life. Throughout the process, Gill identified a gap between graduating from college and launching into the world of entrepreneurship: a homebase. 

“The whole concept with STRT is the living arrangements are such that if you’re moving in from out of state, if you are someone that just wants to meet new people—and most of our creative, entrepreneurial, ambitious folks are—we can give you a much cheaper product because you’re sharing amenities with a group of others,” Gill says. “That’s way more economically effective for people that are looking at gap housing and more importantly, socially, it’s way more lucrative because now you start building relationships.”

Gill and co-founder Troy D’Ambrosio created STRT in 2019. Shortly thereafter, they partnered with Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign, working with the studio’s internationally renowned director, Mehrdad Yazdani, to design a new concept focused on the user experience of entrepreneurs and creatives. 

“Working with Troy, Victor and the STRT team to design these live/work concepts has been inspiring,” Yazdani said in a press release announcing the partnership. “They have a vision that will empower entrepreneurs and creative minds all over the country.” 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pandemic delayed the team’s plans for securing a physical location to open its first STRT City Living. However, they are currently exploring location options in downtown Salt Lake City with the hopes to open doors to residents in the near future. 

“I think the world’s best place to have a startup is in downtown Salt Lake,” Gill says. “We will get there. In the meantime, we’re really doing a lot of community support and activations—supporting other folks that care about creatives and entrepreneurs.”

“It’s a single check that includes internet and anything else that’s going to be necessary on the property—everything you need in a package at about 70–80 percent of the cost of a typical studio. We’re trying to help [creators] progress to where [they] need to progress, and the way we do that is through shared amenities.”

Though a timeline for opening a physical location is not quite locked in, Gill says that STRT’s future looks promising. The company recently announced its partnership with American Campus Communities, a private student housing company. Through this partnership, STRT is having discussions with universities around the nation to develop Entrepreneurial Living Learning Communities: STRT On Campus by American Campus Communities, residences that will offer housing accommodations, resources and programming to university student entrepreneurs and creators in one place. 

“The future, for now, is we focus on student housing,” Gill says. “We establish the brand in the student housing market, and then there’s an understanding of how and why it works. Then we go back and expand the product into city living.” 

While STRT is currently focused on housing for college students, Gill says the goal remains to create living and collaborative spaces in cities that help people afford to live, work and socialize in one place. STRT plans to cut costs for residents by offering month-to-month housing, providing furnished spaces and private bedrooms and including amenities such as utilities, which would be an additional expense in traditional monthly rental payments. 

“It’s a single check that includes internet and anything else that’s going to be necessary on the property—everything you need in a package at about 70–80 percent of the cost of a typical studio,” Gill says. “We’re trying to help [creators] progress to where [they] need to progress, and the way we do that is through shared amenities.”

By nature of its shared amenities and spaces, STRT also provides opportunities for residents to engage in social interaction, a desire for which Gill has heard his students repeatedly express in recent years. In his ten years as an adjunct instructor, Gill has started each semester by asking his students what kind of business they would start if their options were endless. For the first seven or so of those years, Gill says, there was a pattern in sustainability. Recently, the responses have changed.  

“In the last two years, it’s such an emphasis on human connection and community,” Gill says. “It’s heartbreaking to me because people tend to solve the problems that they have themselves, and what that tells me is these folks feel disconnected. They feel like they don’t have a real community. I think properties that encourage [us] to be able to see each other, hear each other and feel each other’s energy make a huge difference.”

Reports on how people are feeling lonelier and more depressed as a result of social media and other forms of online engagement have certainly been on the rise. Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness and the Workplace study indicated that 71 percent of heavy social media users reported feeling loneliness, and that 61 percent of Americans classify as lonely.  

Sapien Labs’ Mental Health Million project reveals that, across a sample of 47,000 participants, those who engaged in frequent face-to-face socializing had a mental wellbeing score of 66 points higher than those who were experiencing in-person interactions less often. The data from this report suggest that social interaction—or the lack thereof—has more effects on mental wellbeing than physical exercise. 

Gill sees STRT Living as a way to effectively address the pain points statistics like these reveal by providing the opportunity to connect in an environment fueled by creativity. “We really believe that STRT is important because, in this world of digital connection, real-life connection means so much,” he says. And with nearly two-thirds of Gen Z Americans starting or intending to start their own business, Gill feels confident that STRT will help meet the future entrepreneurs right where they are.

“There’s a need for this kind of product,” Gill says. “Housing is a major issue. It’s a social issue [and] an economic issue. There’s a massive economic necessity to provide affordable housing. We think once we get a teeny bit of traction, we are going to get a whole lot of traction.”