NATIONAL: Student Housing as a Lifestyle Brand
Launched in the early ’90s, the sector is barely old enough to have a bachelor’s degree. As it matures, Campus Evolution Villages CEO Andrew Stark and CIO Evan Denner (we snapped them in their Manhattan office) want to infuse the industry with a lifestyle experience, meaning less strictly multifamily with more hospitality and retail. (Anything to make moving home after school unattractive to graduates; the empty nest is too crowded.) It’s sweeping properties into its lifestyle brand, with 6,300 beds owned and 2,500 managed at the end of '13 (among the top 20 student housing operators). And it’s made a few deals already this year, including last year’s management contract for 300 beds that are under construction near Michigan State.
One wouldn’t think brand recognition would be a high priority for a student housing company. But Andrew and Evan want to create memorable experiences for their residents (down to front desk folks who greet them with, “How can I make your day great?”). They’re seeking word-of-mouth recommendations from older siblings and cousins and especially from parents and universities.
He says there’ll be 23 million undergrad and grad students by 2020, but only 25% of those will fit on campuses. That leaves 17.3 million heads for the current 11 million off-campus beds. Andrew and Evan see potential for the student housing sector to spread its wings especially in the mountain states (we snapped their portfolio map). The company looks for universities that offer degrees with high graduation rates like engineering and nursing. It also likes schools that do a lot of student visas with students traveling from South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and China.