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DALLAS-With two projects under way and a $200-million pipeline to mine, Trammell Crow Co. has added Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. as its equity partner for the two-year-old student housing program. The exclusive agreement is underwriting a merchant-build plan for off-campus housing in key US university markets.

The development program began with projects in Philadelphia and Memphis as TCC weighed whether to solo on the plan or take on an equity partner. The New York City-based MetLife and TCC already joint venture on a retail development program so it was one of the first to be courted from the developer’s black book. “There was already a pretty good relationship there,” says Chris Harness, TCC’s senior vice president of the two-year-old student housing division. As for the exclusivity, he adds “when you’re getting a great partner like MetLife, you don’t need anybody else.”

Harness tells GlobeSt.com that the $200-million pipeline will add 3,000 to 4,000 beds within three years to high barrier-to-entry markets at various institutions nationwide. The next groundbreaking will be a 400-bed complex within walking distance of the University of Texas at Brownsville.

The plan is awaiting approval from the Fort Brown Overlay District, a historical commission to ensure the distinct architectural style of the military outpost is protected. If the plan passes muster, TCC’s Stratum-branded development will rise with six residential buildings and one clubhouse. Tentatively, work is penciled to start late in the fourth quarter or early 2008, with delivery planned for the 2009 fall start of classes.

TCC’s first Stratum-branded delivery will be the renovated Divine Tracy Hotel at 20 S. 36th St. in Philadelphia. Last year, the developer paid about $9 million for the 144-room historic hotel situated one block from the University of Pennsylvania and one block from Drexel University. Part of the acquisition pact was that TCC created four full room-and-board scholarships in memory of the Rev. MJ Divine, best known as Father Divine and former owner of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The scholarships have a combined value of $250,000, a key dealmaker in TCC’s win for the sought-after real estate.

The Stratum on 36th will deliver this summer. TCC has retooled the 144 rooms into a 260-bed building. The developer says it is going to be the only off-campus luxury housing with food service in the city. The property manager is Austin-based Campus Advantage Inc.

At the University of Memphis, TCC broke ground in March on the Stratum on Highland, an 85-unit, 255-bed building with 2,200 sf of street-level retail space fore a coffee shop. The ground-up project at 510 S. Highland Dr. will deliver in summer 2008. The developer bought several houses to assemble a site just shy of one acre to build the first ground-up off-campus housing in three decades near the university and first for the TCC program.

“Ground-up development is going to be our bread and butter,” Harness says. And, so will mixed use. The Stratum prototype varies in design, but the amenity center is a constant: exercise facility, business center, theater, tanning salon, cyber café, maid service and Wi-Fi hotspots. “It’s kind of like what the kids have at home,” he adds. In Memphis, the average per bed rate is $650 per month, including the amenity package. The development, a mix of efficiencies to four-bedroom apartments, also will feature controlled-access parking at a nominal fee. Its property manager has yet to be selected.

The plan is build, stabilize and “sell them to the institutional market,” Harness says. “We are looking for edge-of-campus locations where we can build a state-of-the-art student housing project to meet the demands of students and parents.”

Harness says TCC’s 28 development offices in the US make it easy do one-off projects. Due to the competition, he’s not saying too much about the pipeline, but did say scouts are out in Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Portland, OR. “That’s the beauty of having this national platform,” he says. “And, we are glad that MetLife has embraced it and that MetLife is our partner.”

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