The people at Moda Living aren’t just offering apartments to rent, they believe they can transform your life.
Have a scroll through their Instagram account and you’ll find beautiful people performing rooftop yoga against a Manchester city centre skyline, or sipping coffee in trendy cafés while working on MacBooks or munching artisan food at the Grade II listed food court Mackie Mayor.
It’s all part of their hashtag ‘LiveTheModaLife’.
What is a ‘Moda’ life?
The latest build-to-rent skyscraper set to open as part of the NOMA project promises a dazzling array of facilities from rooftop 5-a-side football to a state-of-the-art gym and mini cinema.
Other perks include Uber credit, cookery classes and free use of a co-working space and private dining area for parties.
With each of the 466 apartments set to come with a 49in Samsung 4k TV smart, 250mbps broadband and discounted Sky packages, there seems little incentive to ever leave.
All this, and Moda says renters will pay no up-front fees, no deposit and can take out ‘flexible’ contracts.
So what’s the catch? And is this the way renters of the 21st century want to live?
‘A 5 star hotel that people live in’
One city centre councillor has expressed concern that the 36-storey Angel Gardens tower block will effectively create an entirely ‘privatised’ building ‘hermetically sealed off’ from the rest of the city.
“You’re providing [renters] with a raft of facilities that mean they will never have to mix with anyone else in the city, ” argued Councillor Sam Wheeler.
“In what sense are they going to be Mancunians?”
With rents for a studio starting at £900 a month, he also questioned whether the apartments will be affordable to the average local.
But Moda bosses say they are simply catering for the ‘upwardly mobile’ Manchester city centre market.
Director Oscar Brooks told the Manchester Evening News that Angel Gardens should be viewed as a ‘4 or 5 star hotel that people live in’.
He makes no apology for Moda’s aim to be involved in everything in their tenants’ lives from paying their bills and travel arrangements to designing their social lives.
Everything will be integrated through the ‘MyModa’ phone app that will monitor activity so that the company can better tailor their offers to each individual.
It even acts as the key to open the front door.
On 1 July, punters can pay £200 to reserve an Angel Gardens apartment ahead of the expected opening in October.
Moda will begin offering services straight away and Mr Brooks envisions renters turning up on move in day with their broadband set up, their favourite Netflix show on TV and their favourite song already playing on Spotify.
“We genuinely want to treat residents like a member of the family,” he said.
Angel Gardens is the first of eight Moda developments set to open in cities across Britain in the coming years.
Is this the future of urban living, or a step into the technological abyss?
“We’re trying to create next generation spaces to live, work and play’
“With Moda, we’ve tried to make it much more a lifestyle experience than a property brand,” says Mr Brooks.
“People are more concerned with the level of service they get now.
“Whether it’s banking, music or health, why should your home be any different?”
“We’re trying to create next generation spaces to live, work and play.
“This is already happening in the States and elsewhere, the UK is a bit late to the party in terms of this type of living.
“Angel Gardens is the pilot, we’re going to try out a whole host of ideas.
“We want to knit ourselves in the the residential fabric of each city we are in.”
Many of the services Moda are hoping to supply are still to be finalised.
But Mr Brooks says his company is talking to ‘household names’ who will deliver a quite mind-boggling list of add-ons.
One partner that is already confirmed is Hero, a corporate health and wellbeing specialist that already counts Premier League football teams among clients.
Aiming to go one step further than simply providing a gym and fitness classes, Hero will also offer mental health and nutrition support.
Each renter will be offered a 3D body scan on moving in and Hero staff can keep track of their health using wearable technology that tracks sleep, movement, nutrition and mood.
There are also plans to partner with energy suppliers to give residents cheaper bills, Uber and a car rental firm for transport, as well as exclusive deals on music, restaurant and shopping.
According to Moda, taking advantage of all of their services could be worth as much as £700 a month.
Those theoretical savings notwithstanding, Mr Brooks readily admits he is targeting the ‘upper quarter’ of Manchester’s rental market.
One bed apartments will start at £1,000pcm, 2-beds between £1,300 and £1,400 depending on the layout and 3-beds £1,850.
“A lot of the product that comes forward in Manchester is more a mid-market product,” he said.
“I think we’ve always had this inherent motivation to go above and beyond.”
“One phrase we use is ‘connected convenience’. If you can put all that convenience in the palm of someone’s hand, it saves people time and allows them to go off and do what they want to be doing.
“We will be bringing a lifestyle offering that people didn’t know they needed, but now can’t live without.”
‘The last thing this is going to be is forced fun’
The Moda project is being backed by Apache Capital , a UK and Middle-East based real estate investment firm, with around 7,500 units in the pipeline and a development value of £2.5billion.
Announcing the joint venture in 2015, Apache said it would be concentrating on ‘regional centres where population growth and an undersupply of residential accommodation looks set to trigger rental and capital growth over the next few years.’
Their ‘ideal’ tenants are ’20-44-years-old with disposable income who demand locations and buildings that come with high quality services and amenities’.
In other words, the Instagram generation who are driven by the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’.
Mr Brooks denied that the Moda brand was in any way designed to cash in on millennial angst.
“We’re not trying to show people what their life should be,” he said.
“We want to give them the tools so that’s easier to do the things they want to do.
“The last thing this is going to be is forced fun.
“It’s more like bar and restaurant service, having your drink topped up, that kind of simplicity.
“But fundamentally it’s all optional.
“You can go get as little or as much involved as you want.
“At the end of the day, if you’re a bit more introverted, or you just want to crash out after a long day of work and you don’t want to go to a book club, you don’t have to.”
“Fundamentally, it’s a property.
“These are very, very good apartments designed to the best of our abiliites.
“Because we’re going to operate them ourselves in the long term.
“We’ve looked at everything, from the quality of the door handles to tiliing.”
‘In what sense are you a citizen of Manchester?’
Nevertheless, the opening of Moda poses troubling questions for some.
Labour Councillor Sam Wheeler was re-elected earlier this month on a turnout of barely 20 per cent in the Piccadilly ward.
He has previously raised concerns that it is hard for public officials to canvass residents in the area, many of whom live in buildings where it is virtually impossible for him to knock on doors.
He said he found the idea of the Moda building providing such a wide array of in-house facilities and services for residents ‘monstrous’.
“It’s ‘streets in the sky’ but privatised and hermetically sealed off,” he told the M.E.N.
“It’s the Spinningfield-isation of an entire building, separate from Manchester.”
“Let’s say you come from Bristol to do your tech job in Manchester, you go running in the gym there, do yoga, you use the co-working space, in what sense is that part of the community?
“In what sense are they going to be Mancunians?”
Mr Wheeler said he fears Angel Gardens could also further fuel rising rental costs in the city centre, and argued the average Mancunian couldn’t afford to live there.
“It’s only a certain type of people who can afford it,” he said.
“Why spend £900 a month on a studio when four bus stops away you could get a three-bedroom house in Harpurhey?
“If you’ve come from the London rental market, it seems reasonable.
“We’re getting people who are bleeding out of the capital and coming to Manchester – we’re two hours away on the train, this is the outpost for a lot of businesses.
“Because of the madness of the London rental market, anywhere else seems reasonable.”
‘Manchester has a history of breaking new ground’
These criticisms are perhaps indicative of a wider worry in some quarters that Manchester city centre is becoming isolated from the rest of Greater Manchester.
Councillors are also looking at the affects of Airbnb and the short-term letting market in terms of noise pollution, rubbish, safety and driving rent costs up.
Responding to the criticism, Oscar Brooks claimed that Angel Gardens will not only benefit those who live there, but the wider public who visit the area.
“Others in the city will also be able to benefit from the spaces and communities we’ll be creating,” he added.
“Our Courtyard and Gardens will span nearly half an acre and will be open for all.
“Year round, the space will offer a tranquil spot to enjoy some greenery in the city with pop up events with local suppliers activating the space frequently.
“On the ground floor we’ll have three commercial units open to the public. The first is Hero Wellbeing.
“The second and third, to be announced in the coming months, will be occupied by one much loved local food and drink supplier and one well known national brand.
“We have invested heavily in substantial upgrades of the surrounding public realm including a new street, Angel Mews, which along with the courtyard helps to substantially improve current permeability through the area.
While some may find the all-consuming nature of the Angel Gardens overwhelming, Mr Brooks is convinced it will be a hit.
“We would never profess to speak for everyone,” he said.
“But there’s enough people in the market to warrant the business case.
“We love Manchester to bits, it’s a great city, one of the most forward-thinking, pioneering, with a really exciting population.
“Manchester has a history of breaking new ground- we thought it was a natural place to plant our first flag.”