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Now you see it, now you don't: West Side apartments first in nation to offer unique bed

Now you see it, now you don't: West Side apartments first in nation to offer unique bed

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You can't truly sleep on a cloud. But in one new apartment building in Buffalo, you can sleep on a Cloud Bed.

Confined to a small building – but eager to maximize both the number of apartments and the size of each one – the developer behind the Campus West residential project on the city's West Side has become the first in the country to test an innovative feature that originated in a university lab.

It's an electrically driven bed that enables a single area to double as both a living room and a bedroom. And it's serving as an extra draw for potential tenants attracted by the latest technology that no one else locally has.

Campus West, 129 West Ave., is a new apartment complex on Buffalo's West Side. It offers micro-apartments of 540 square feet, with Cloud Beds …

Here's how it works: Press a button on the wall, and a queen-sized bed descends from the ceiling, with a shelf on either side of the wood frame and a mattress on top. Press the button again, and the bed rises to expose a full-size couch underneath, with armrests underneath.

There's even backlit LED lighting behind and around the wall – also digitally controlled by either the electronic display or a smartphone app.

"It’s very different," said Anthony P. LoRusso, owner of APL Property Group, developer of the 48-unit complex at 129 West Ave. "I think today’s market is futuristic and this is a touch of the future, we hope. That’s why I’m praying it works. But the early response has been just fantastic."

See inside one of the new Campus West Apartments, and see a demonstration of how the Cloud Bed works at the push of a button.

"It's a great eye-opening feature for people to see and want to move in," said Christopher Ackerson, property manager for Campus West, where 22 units are rented in a four-story building that opened for leasing late last year. "I’ve had people come in here and they look around, and I ask them where the bed is, and they look at me like I’m nuts, and then I press a button, the bed comes down, and they ask me where they sign up."

The Cloud Bed is something you'd expect to see in a much more crowded city with limited real estate and sky-high prices to match the heights of its buildings. Think New York City, San Francisco, Boston or Toronto, for example.

But it earned its first test here in Buffalo, much to the surprise of the New York City company that created it. And it's now being incorporated into new developments in Boise, Idaho; Minneapolis; and in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas Þ cities where space isn't usually a problem.

"Even I was a little bit surprised," said Hasier Larrea, co-founder and CEO of Ori Inc., the 6-year-old "smart-space" company and furniture designer that makes the Cloud Bed and sells it to builders. "I never thought Texas would be a place where Ori solutions would thrive."

Larrea said that when he and his colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab launched the new company, "we were looking at the usual suspects – New York, Boston, London, Tokyo, Singapore."

But they've found that "the concept of affordability is relative for different people," he said. "The way you achieve that is to lower the cost."

To be sure, the Campus West apartments still aren't cheap by Buffalo standards. Rents start at $999 per month, and range up to $1,475 for three penthouse apartments on the fourth floor.

And that's for just 545 square feet of space, not including outdoor patios or the balconies in all but six of the apartments. The size of the outside space – as much as 200 additional square feet with parquet wood flooring for the biggest units – dictates the variation in price.

But LoRusso and Ackerson say tenants get a lot more than just a fancy electric bed. The rent includes electricity, gas, water, garbage collection, and high-speed Internet service built into the price. "The only thing we left out, but we didn’t see most people wanting, is cable," Ackerson said. Phone service is also separate.

The one-bedroom units also feature 10-foot ceilings, sliding white-framed barn doors with frosted glass, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, laminate vinyl tile floors, soft-close cabinets and drawers, a video intercom entry system, and extra large shower stalls. There's an exercise room in the complex. And the $8.5 million building is fully solar-powered, with individual heat pumps and temperature controls, as well as triple-pane windows for both insulation and noise reduction.

The 40,500-square-foot building – which RP Oak Hill Building Co. completed during the Covid-19 pandemic – also has MERV-13 air filtration and ultraviolet light at the entrance, LoRusso said. Half the air in the building circulates out every two hours, he added.

With all those elements, but a small footprint, the developer had to look at space-saving options like the bed.

"There's no other way we could see where we could keep the rental costs down per square foot unless we did something novel and unique," LoRusso said.

Originally, the plan called for more traditional Murphy beds that fold out of the wall, but "it was more of a hassle to bring your bed down," Ackerson said. The Cloud Bed is "more of a press of a button, rather than using your hands," Ackerson said.

The bed has four legs that automatically extend or retract while the bed is moving. It also has safety features built in to stop its descent if someone or something is underneath it, or to prevent it from rising if someone is on top. And in case of a loss of power, a tenant can unplug the unit and lower the bed manually by grabbing a leg. 

The combined bed and couch – which together cost about $10,000 for each unit – are included with every apartment, with cushions and mattress. The apartments also include electric fireplaces and two armoires and can  be fully furnished for an extra $45 per month.

The project is aimed at both workforce tenants and seniors, although Ackerson said most of the tenants so far range in age from 25 to 40. "The response has been good," LoRusso said. "The young people want nice, clean, immaculate places, easy to take care of. They want the functionality."

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