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Canadian Olympians Are Changing The Student Housing Game

Toronto Student Housing

Purpose-built student housing is a proven asset class in the US, but it’s been slower to take hold north of the border. A pair of Canadian Olympians is working to change that. Podium Development Corp’s Oskar Johansson and Bernard Luttmer—former Olympic sailing team members who competed in Athens in '04 (Oskar’s pictured left at the closing ceremonies, with sailing silver medalist Mike Wolfs and Bernard)—have launched University Suites, a 399-unit student-housing condo project that’s 500 metres from Queen’s University and downtown Kingston. The complex is aimed at attracting students and local professionals.


With a competitive job market leading more people to return to school in pursuit of second or third degrees, there’s an opportunity to target mature students and faculty members with higher-quality, investment-grade housing options, Oskar tells us. The project is by PRK Developments, a JV between Podium and Reichmann International Development (Brookfield Multiplex is the construction manager; Kingston-based Varsity Properties will manage the property). University Suites will have a gym, study areas and 17k SF of ground-floor retail. (Suites come with an option for a three-year leaseback, making the condo units a turnkey investment.)


Podium has been in the development game for the past 10 years, with projects across Ontario, most of them student-housing focused. Now the firm is looking to expand into the GTA. They’ve secured several properties here, notes Bernard (snapped with Oskar at the University Suites sales centre in Toronto), and will soon have product coming down the pipeline. Privately developed student housing may be an emerging asset class in Canada at the moment, but Oskar predicts “we’ll see a lot more purpose-built investments around universities and college in the years to come.”