Make Money, Stop Crime
It's not every day a developer can fill an underserved niche and fight crime, but Fountain Residential prez Brent Little did it at the University of Houston. (He's the Batman of commercial real estate.) He's transforming the commuter college into one with a residential population.
Brent (pictured competing in the Tough Mudder) says UH with its 40,000 students and Tier 1 research institution recognition is highly desirable for student housing developers, but there's virtually no housing nearby. What is surrounding UH: high crime. According to the HPD, there were 1,428 incidents around the school in '06. Luckily, fixing the first is also improving the second. Brett tells us Fountain Residential is redeveloping a boarded-up gas station, two dilapidated apartment projects, and a '60s-era building at the intersection of MacGregor and Calhoun into two student housing communities.
It's a $60M investment into the neighborhood, and it hasn't been an easy process. (It took Brent more than five years to acquire three parcels to assemble the first site.) The Vue on MacGregor opens next month, followed by Campus Vue next year, and Brent hopes they'll be part of a continuing trend of revitalizing the area. He says local developers consider UH a commuter school and refuse to build there, but he sees it as a chicken-egg scenario: It's a commuter school because there aren't quality properties for students to live in.
Brent thinks once there are 5,000 to 10,000 beds available it'll become a thriving student neighborhood. So far so good: There were 437 fewer crimes last year than '06, new retail has continued to be successful, the light rail coming through the area will be complete next year, and The Vue is 100% pre-leased.