|Student housing is flush with new projects, according to panelists at Bisnow’s 2nd Annual Boston Student Housing Summit.
|Money has been rushing into student housing because it’s close to recession resistant, according to Campus Apartments investments VP Mark Schundler. As a result, the “cash is king” mantra of the downturn doesn’t mean much. Campus Apartments, a Philly-based for-profit company, operates 30,000 beds nationwide. With current low interest rates, the many RFPs being issued by colleges and universities nationwide could mean savings for schools and lower rents for students.
|Lincoln Property (an event sponsor) has targeted 15 possible development opportunities in land-starved Boston: empty parcels, tear-down sites and renovations of existing buildings, says Lincoln SVP John Cappellano. Still, projects face challenges like the high cost of land and the rising construction tab. Lincoln and its affiliate Phoenix Property Co are partnering to build Northeastern University the 723-bed dorm now under construction at 291 Saint Botolph St, due in ‘14. For its student housing properties across the US, Phoenix often extends 12-month leases. That alleviates the move ‘em in, move ’em out struggle for parents by letting the student keep the same unit, which Phoenix can lease for them in the summer.
|At Northeastern, residence halls can be leveraged to help solve other problems like finding space for academic departments, classrooms, athletic facilities and libraries, says associate dean Bob Jose. The university houses 8,500, about half of its student body, on and off campus. Northwestern would like to house more students on campus and get out of leasing apartments in the neighborhood—but it may not be able to, Bob laments.
|Student housing may be enjoying good times, but containing costs is still critical, says Angus Leary COO of Suffolk Construction (an event sponsor). For Suffolk, which has about 30% of its work in this sector, using BIM for design, planning, construction and facility management is a big help. On the recently completed Mass College of Art residence hall, lean construction techniques helped shave 13 weeks off the construction schedule. No longer are dorms cookie cutter projects; they’re customized to serve the preferences of each student body. Adding further complexity, the buildings are frequently mixed-use high-rises. A new construction site wrinkle: ear buds and texting make students “less engaged with their environment.”
|A shout out to another sponsor, the American Institute of Steel Construction, which sent William Pascoli and Capone Iron’s Gary Capone to join us for breakfast. The Chicago-based trade group works to boost the use of structural steel in construction and enhance the steel industry's global competitiveness.