Well-travelled and fluent in 4 languages, Lucie Ledvinova is a House Manager at THE FIZZ Prague – a new student housing in Holesovice.
THE FIZZ is located in one of the most dynamic and vibrant neighbourhoods in Prague. An 8-storey building has opened its doors on September 15th and has 539 single, double & twin apartments, three roof terraces, a Sky Lounge, Community kitchens, a music room, pool tables, a movie room, an enormous bike storage room, a laundry room with a table tennis and a huge garden where there is a space for a playground and a barbecue.
THE FIZZ is a concept by the International Campus that develop and manage not only student housings but also flexible and innovative co-living spaces in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the Czech Republic.
In a nutshell, they create spaces and communities.
Lucie, who has had a successful career within hotel and event management, has always been passionate about culture exchange, knowledge expansion and outlook broadening. She loves making people happy, hence, the reason a role of the House Manager at THE FIZZ was so appealing to her.
Lucie, being very hands-on, participates in everything she takes on in her building, making sure that the housing is not a structure, but a live organism.
SeasonAbroad had a private tour of THE FIZZ premises and sat down with Lucie to discuss the magic behind all the work that she has done at THE FIZZ to make sure the tenants feel like it is less of a simple space, but more a community.
SA: How would you describe THE FIZZ?
LL: I can describe it in several ways.
Firstly, it is a unique new generation building that does not only provide accommodation, but a community to learn from and grow within. Secondly, it is a totally different concept from what Prague might be used to.
And lastly, it is a vibrant and energetic lifestyle for students.
SA: What is your end vision of the interior of this place?
LL: Every building has a story and it is not just walls, floors and furniture. There are still some things that need to be finished, such as some work that is being done in the garden area. However, the interior on a larger scale is done. We need to attend to décor a bit though.
International Campus have 12 student homes in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
I travelled to Germany and Austria and visited those housings and I’d say the inside of the buildings are pretty much standardised. We are cooperating with the same furniture fitting suppliers, but in the end, each building has its special touch. So, THE FIZZ Berlin has it is own Berlin vibe, Vienna has its own too.
In the lobby area of THE FIZZ Prague we have some space and we are now thinking what to put there. One of our ideas is to replicate a famous John Lennon’s Wall of Prague or a Prague Metro map. Our idea is to introduce Prague to our tenants as they enter the building.
We still need to discuss that with our architects, but that would be my vision of this place.
SA: Where are your tenants coming from? Which countries?
LL: 50% of our tenants are Czech citizens. The other half mostly consists of students coming from Spain and then we have some people from Russia, Ukraine, Asia, Finland, France but we have less of them because of travel restrictions.
If there had not been COVID-19, it would have been a different split.
Every day we have many people coming in and viewing the building. And even though the universities are closed, we still have people travelling to Prague and choosing to live at THE FIZZ. I think to all of our tenants and those who wish to join us here, it is not only investing into accommodation, but into community as well.
SA: Do you have a date for future anniversaries of THE FIZZ?
LL: Technically our anniversary should be the date we opened our doors to our first tenants which is September 15th 2020. We were planning to organise a welcome party for everyone at the end of October, however, due to current situation everything has been postponed.
Anniversary is a great event! I am coming from the events industry and I love making people happy, so I have many ideas in regards to the events for students.
SA: Was there anything in the original plan that had to be changed, besides, of course, the whole COVID-19 situation?
LL: No. The only thing that is affected now is the events which we cannot do.
Of course, COVID-19 also affected the sales and consequently, the occupancy. It is not as full as we had initially predicted. We thought we would have it 60% full by September, but we have it about 27% full now, and, in comparison to hospitality industry and other accommodations, we are doing very well and I am happy about it.
There are few things that were also postponed such as boutique sales. We have some branded mugs, USB sticks for students, also some other items such as linen or kitchen utensils – we would like to sell those to students.
SA: THE FIZZ was a change for you as you used to work for hospitality industry such as hotels. Do you think all the experience you have gained throughout the years until this point is applicable to your daily work now at THE FIZZ?
LL: For sure. There are two major differences: my clients are much younger now, and life of the contract is longer. As you know in hotels the clients stay usually for a few days on average.
I quite like that I can build relationship with my clients here – the shortest contract is 6 months, then 12 months, so once they move in, it takes quite a short time to know them by name, where they are coming from and what their aspirations are.
Our tenants are young and a lot of them are first time in Prague or outside of their countries of origin, so they come to the reception quite often with their questions and we get to know their stories. If you attach a story to each person, then it is easier to remember them as well.
We have the youngest tenant who is 17, but mostly they are in their 20s.
We are in some way their family at the moment. We have a tenant who was very homesick, so we would spend time with her comforting her. I know how it feels to be homesick. I lived in Australia and it was not easy to travel back home and when I studied on Erasmus program in Germany, I was 22 and even though it was very close I felt homesick especially during the first 3 months.
We understand that now it is harder to make friends in a new city – we have no culture events, everything is closed due to the current situation, including universities.
SA: Tell us about your first three months at THE FIZZ and also about your team.
LL: I have started working at THE FIZZ from July 15th and I was the first person to be hired and there was no team. The opening of the building was exactly in 2 months and I had to build my team from scratch. So, I did. I hired my team and learned on a job with them. I am very happy about it. I have a team pf 3 people and a facility management company which consists of 1 technician, 1 facility manager and 1-2 cleaning ladies. The biggest team I ever managed in my career was 60 people across 3 hotels in the northern part of the Czech Republic and I kind of always inherited my teams. I love this change now and it is a real gift that I was able to choose and build my own team.
We can rely on each other and they have 100% of my trust. I don’t have regular meetings with them, because we discuss everything on the spot. I have a very good overview of things.
I and my team had to learn everything from how the check-in and registrar worked to the latest facility management systems and security protocols and to buying pens and notepads.
SA: What can you tell us about the opening day?
LL: Opening THE FIZZ was such an amazing challenge. I opened a hotel before in the north of the Czech Republic with 15 rooms, so as you can imagine, launching THE FIZZ was something very new.
What I can vividly remember is that 3 days before the opening of THE FIZZ we still had a construction site here but with the effort of my team we finished everything on time. We opened the doors to students on September 15th. We, of course, had to do some room sweeps, but everything was smooth and I am very thankful to my team.
SA: Would you love to live in such a student housing if you were a young student?
LL: I would absolutely love to live in one of these. While in Australia, I shared an apartment with my friends but there was no nice garden for barbecue, no pool table and no place for events and no sense of community.
THE FIZZ provides a nice environment to connect with others and for self-growth.
It also builds your confidence as a person.
SA: When ‘dust’ settles, what would you think your ideal morning at work will be?
LL: Full house of students, people sharing their experiences, sharing culture activities, people cooking together in the community kitchen and participating in events.
I love food, so I would love to see someone cooking paella, as an example, and share a recipe with everyone. Food is something that brings memories. And I want to see people making memories.
Personally to me, sharing accommodation brings lovely memories – it was one of the best periods of my life when I was sharing a flat with my friends. If you feel connection to people in such a housing as THE FIZZ, you can fully enjoy yourself and make memories with others who can become your lifetime friends.
With more tenants, THE FIZZ will get more alive. It is very lovely to be around young people. I and my team really enjoy that.
SA: We see that everything is new and fresh here. Have you already had any recent damages?
LL: It is a funny story. One morning we saw that one of the beanbags was literally destroyed. So, we wrote an email to everyone saying that a movie room and a music room would remain closed until someone came to the reception and told us who had done it. So, the group of students came and said that it happened during the night and that they were very sorry. It was nice how they took responsibility. We felt like we were their moms and dads or a family they look up to. I felt it was a learning curve for them and for us which I would hope resulted in building a sense of community and responsibility.
I would like to also mention that the culture of THE FIZZ is about transparency. We are all here on a first name basis and we would like our culture to be sustained and influence our tenants. We do not have corporate uniforms, on the contrary – we have polo shirts and jeans that make us more approachable and this is what we want – to be there for our young residents.
SA: Do you have any opportunities for tenants to also work at THE FIZZ as residential assistants maybe?
LL: In other student housings, students work at the reception as student helpers and it would honestly be my dream job if I was a student. We have it with a question mark at the moment here in Prague because it all depends on our occupancy.
In Vienna we have also tenants working as event helpers. Once the situation with pandemic is clearer, we will then see if we need to involve any tenants as well.
SA: Are pets allowed?
LL: As much as we love pets, they are, unfortunately, not allowed. However, fish would be fine.
SA: If anything happens who do students call?
LL: We have a hotline and we have a technician 24/7 on a call. For all technical issues we have an outsourced facility management company. The company also manages large hotel chains, so they are very skilled. We also have security on site.
SA: We see that you have some space on the ground floor. Is it for rent?
LL: We want to benefit our tenants so we are not leasing this space to everyone who is interested. We want to have a grocery store, perhaps a bistro / café as we have a large place of 300 sq meters. Or maybe a fitness.
SA: What are other services that students can use at THE FIZZ?
LL: We have rental services so students can rent a vacuum cleaner and other appliances – we frankly had to think to the smallest detail what our residents might need.
We also have mailing services. I and 5 more people were manually tagging 539 post boxes and matching them with the keys for 4 hours. The process was long.
We also provide printing services. Now everything is for free, so tenants can come down to the reception and we will print for them anything for free. In the future however, when the house is full we will charge students a very small amount.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a library but we would like to have reading nooks for students or a shelf for them to swap books.
Everyone who became a tenant also got THE FIZZ branded bag with some gifts such as candy. We have partnered with a few companies that provided us with drinks, cookies and candy. We also include in the bag a flyer on what to do in Prague.
I would like to say that everyone who started living in this building from the very beginning has a chance to grow with it.
SA: Are you involved in the sales or marketing here?
LL: No, we are not involved in pricing, promotion, marketing or sales.
We are involved in operations of the building making sure it operates smoothly. We are really looking after the people who are already living in the building.
SA: Any plans to build one more building like this in Prague?
LL: It all depends on the success of this one. It is possible, of course, as in Austria we have more than one. International Campus are planning on opening THE FIZZ in Hungary and Poland. Prague was their first non-German speaking country.
SA: Would you want to work in another THE FIZZ housing?
LL: I would be interested in doing an opening in another country.
Before opening in Prague, I travelled to Vienna, Berlin and Darmstadt and spent 2-3 days in each building to learn about their best practices and it really helped me with our opening in Prague. It was a big plus for me. My colleagues are also very nice – if I need some advice I can approach them. I am in touch with my boss on a daily basis and he is very supportive.
SA: Lucie, this place is great and you have done an amazing job! What are your wishes for your tenants?
LL: I hope the universities will open soon, so our tenants can make more friends.
People miss a human connection. This building has enough room for personal space and for becoming a part of community.
Young generation today has to learn to be on the path of exchanging experiences and following their own discovery. And what can be a better place than the home you go to sleep to and wake up in and spend most of your time at. Here at THE FIZZ, they can stop and think of what they really want, and learn about what is important.