LAS VEGAS—While some companies, like Landmark Properties, are looking at adding amenities galore to their properties, others like EdR, for example, are a bit more conservative. Representatives from those companies and others were among panelists on a “Design, Development and Construction Trends” panel at RealShare Student Housing on Thursday.
According to Joshua J. Wilson, VP of development at EdR, his company focuses on things like a private bath and having no double occupancy. Jason Doornbos, SVP of development at Landmark Properties, on the other hand, said that his firm is going for the wow factor in its amenity packages. “We have done spas in our projects, pools, and we are constantly trying to come up with that best new amenity to include in our clubhouses.”
In a preview article before the event, moderator Greg Faulkner, president of Humphreys & Partners Architects, told GlobeSt.com that one thing he has seen a lot of lately are what he deems “amenities on steroids.” According to Faulkner, “these are resorts versus housing,” fully equipped with rooftop bars, seating, pools with lazy rivers, cyber cafes and social areas, concierge services, poolside yogurt service and more. “There are not apartments or dorms, think Hyatt Regency.”
Jake Newman, SVP of American Campus Communities, pointed out that the location of a student housing project is what helps determine the amenities needed. Two focuses for his company is having a state-of-the-art fitness center as well as internet connectivity.
And to help send a message to the parents that it is a living and learning environment, American Campus Communities also tries to incorporate study rooms in its properties.
What is important to consider, according to Jamie Swick, CEO and owner of Integrity Period, is taking a real examination in what the students do in their spare time to help determine what you are offering in terms of storage. “Do they need bike storage or are they storing kayaks on all their cars?” How you use your green spaces is also key, she said.
Doornbos talked about the importance in creating an atmosphere, like a Starbucks—with high back booths, dark paneling, café bar etc.—noting that it “creates a good vibe” and “shows great.”
When talking about unit mixes, panelists were split on whether consistency was key, or whether having a variety of different units helped create a sense of urgency when students look to sign leases. For Doornbos, having a variety of different unit types help student come in and pick what works for them. Newman said it is important to be “consistent with our product size, bathroom layout and bedroom size.”
When it comes to your floor plan engineering, while Swick felt there is a need for double-occupancy rooms across the country, it has to be done very gently. “I prefer it in two-bedroom units. I don’t like to see it in three or four-bedroom floor plans.”
What is also important, Swick added, is to find out if students prefer to have a larger bedroom, or do they prefer to have more of a living room area. “Finding out how students want to use their space is key.”
When asked about challenges, aside from rising construction costs, Newman said that dealing with extensive entitlement processes and getting through it all was challenging. “We are also seeing some hefty tax bills,” he said.
For Wilson, one challenge is finding the sites at the schools his company wants to build at. “Many times the sites are so small that it justifies a high-rise, but the rents in that market don’t justify a high-rise.
One of the forecasts that Swick mentioned to GlobeSt.com in a preview article for the event was that “Hybrid communities are next on the horizon where Millennials and students are housed together.” Swick noted that markets like Deland, FL, are an example of “where you have a small school with no off campus housing for a very affluent student base and no housing for the work force serving the school either.” Individually, she says, “the target markets might not be sufficient to secure financing but together they are a slam dunk.”