KINGSVILLE, TX–As GlobeSt.com reported at the end of June, Domus Development has started work on a new luxury, off-campus student housing community for Texas A&M Kingsville. Legends Kingsville will open in August 2015, housing 504 beds. The project is estimated to cost $22 million. GlobeSt.com caught up with Domus owner Eric Jakimier to find out more about the project and the current student housing market.
GlobeSt.com: You currently broke ground on Legends Kingsville, how will this project differ from other student housing options in the area?
Jakimier: There are only two other by-the-bed properties in the market, one is more of a suite-style product, almost an on-campus product without a kitchen and the other is more like what we are providing except without bed/bath parity and without a one bedroom unit. Our development will also have a higher finish quality and amenities.
GlobeSt.com: Tell me a little about Texas A&M – Kingsville.
Jakimier: It is so pleasant at Texas A&M – Kingsville to be dealing with a university that truly “gets it”. They are in extreme growth mode and understand that they need to spend their precious resources on their core business: professors and classrooms. Let the private sector handle housing. They also understand how competitive the market is to get students and that high quality housing can bring those students to their door. We are seen as an asset not a threat. Believe me, that is not always the case!
GlobeSt.com: When looking for new opportunities what things do you take into account?
Jakimier: Enrollment growth is probably the biggest factor. I have no desire to be in a market where we have to steal residents from other properties to survive. Ideally the pie is getting bigger so everyone does well. We have found as well that once we arrive in town the older, maybe not as nice properties renovate which benefits everyone: the students, the university, the city and ultimately us too as rents typically increase on these older properties.
GlobeSt.com: How many projects do you currently have under construction?
Jakimier: We are just finishing Mustang Ranch in Stephenville for an August move-in and of course Legends Kingsville is just underway. We are particularly thrilled about Mustang Ranch having reached 100% pre-leased the first week of April. Our leasing staff (Asset Campus Housing) did an excellent job of filling that property well ahead of schedule.
GlobeSt.com: Will you be adding more projects to your pipeline this year?
Jakimier: I am always looking for new opportunities! There are a couple of things that we are looking at and of course being a one-man-band Domus can be pretty nimble.
GlobeSt.com: How has the student housing market changed over the years?
Jakimier: I think the overall quality of the development is much higher now. The resident just expects so much more now. When I began developing on-campus properties for JPI in 2002 4/2s were still the norm and certainly we would never have ever imagined granite countertops!
GlobeSt.com: What are students looking for in housing today?
Jakimier: I think they are looking for an extension of what they had at home: nice finishes, roomy units, fast Internet and the like, but also that resort experience, something beyond what they have seen everywhere else. While the basic bones of a Domus development are the same, each of our properties has it’s own unique identity. Why do the same thing over and over? That’s so boring! Compare our two Nacogdoches properties. One is very traditional in appearance to tie in with the 100 year-old house that is our clubhouse and the other is at the far end of the contemporary spectrum. That defied conventional wisdom for a “secondary” market like Stephen F. Austin but I wanted both ends of the market plus with so many students from the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth metro areas it didn’t seem that much of a stretch to me. That strategy has been proven I think by Lofts leasing consistently well.
I also think residents are much more sophisticated these days and know they should be treated more nicely than just a person filing a bed. We are very fortunate to have teamed up with a management company, Asset Campus Housing, that shares this core belief of an extremely high level of customer service with me and my investors.