08/10/2012 | by
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As August ushers in the start of the new school year, one REIT is busy with plans to accommodate college students looking for appealing and convenient campus housing. EdR's (NYSE: EdR) Tom Trubiana, the firm's executive vice president and chief investment officer, discussed some of the company's newest student housing communities and future development plans with REIT.com.

REIT.com: Tell us about some of the new student housing facilities that have opened in 2012 and those that are opening for the first time this academic year.

Tom Trubiana: A 22-story urban high-rise, 929, at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore has just opened for fall occupancy. These apartments were built to relieve demand for upscale housing for the many graduate students at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute.

Also opening this fall, EdR is partnering with LeylandAlliance LLC to create a national model for a college town center adjacent to the University of Connecticut. The Oaks on the Square, a 500-bed, mixed-use community, was built to attract graduate students, university staff and townspeople. EdR has begun construction on Phase II of this multi-phase development.

The company recently completed its second on-campus community at Syracuse University. Law school and other graduate students are moving into Campus West, a 312-bed mixed-use building developed, owned and financed by EdR. The five-story building also includes retail and university offices on the first floor.

Another community, East Edge in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is built on the east side of the University of Alabama campus close to the law school and the baseball complex. Opening this fall, the four-building, four-story complex has 774 beds and is 95 percent pre-leased. EdR is partnering with the Edwards Company on this project.

REIT.com: How about in the development pipeline? What are some of the projects being planned for the future?

Trubiana: We have many new communities in the development and construction stages.

EdR has begun Phase I of a five- to seven-year project to revitalize the on-campus housing at the University of Kentucky (UK). In Phase I, a new living-learning center for the honors program is underway. When the 601-bed housing facility opens for occupancy in the fall of 2013, it will also contain classrooms, multi-purpose rooms and various university offices. EdR is finalizing negotiations with UK to begin Phase II, which will include the systematic demolition of the majority of current on-campus residence halls and the construction of new collegiate housing to bring total on-campus beds to approximately 9,000. These new buildings will be state-of-the-art, amenity-filled complexes that will attract students, but will also include various classrooms and multi-purpose areas that can increase the University of Kentucky's classroom space.

EdR is developing 2400 Nueces, a mixed-use high-rise at the University of Texas. As the ground tenant, EdR is developing, constructing, and will own and manage the 622-bed community on the west side of campus. Along with a variety of apartment styles, the building will feature approximately 19,000 square feet of commercial space, a rooftop pool and patios, a fitness center and 500-plus-space structured parking.

With Concord-Eastridge Inc., EdR is developing an amenities-rich high-rise less than three blocks from the Arizona State Downtown Campus. Targeted for a 2013 opening, this 609-bed complex is designed to be attractive to the collegiate/urban professional market in this growing area.

EdR, with Landmark Properties, is working on two cottage-style communities. The Retreat at Oxford and The Retreat at Penn State will be a neighborhood of two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom cottages with amenity-rich clubhouses to serve the upperclassmen and graduate students at the University of Mississippi and Penn State, respectively. EdR is also expanding accommodations at The Lotus Center — a unique community adjacent to the University of Colorado. Originally built in 1960, EdR is adding 59 units to provide 199 new beds. Current and future amenities will include a courtyard, green space, Wi-Fi, cable and private baths for all bedrooms.

REIT.com: Two of your newer projects involve cottage-style housing. Is the cottage concept a new trend in housing? If so, what makes it appealing?

Trubiana: The cottage-style community is working well at upscale universities. The amenities, privacy and style appeal to student renters who seek a more independent and fashionable living experience. Because we already own two off-campus communities at Ole Miss and Penn State, we are very familiar with the leasing trends and student renters' desires and believe these cottage-style communities will lease easily.

REIT.com: As one of the country's largest developers, owners and managers of collegiate housing, do you see the need for campus area housing continuing to grow?

Trubiana: We definitely see a need for on-campus housing to grow, especially in the area of housing replacement or campus revitalization developments.

Typical residence halls on the campuses of major universities are not equipped to accommodate the electronic, Internet and privacy needs of today's student. We also have seen a noticeable increase in freshman enrollment and upperclassmen retention numbers at newly renovated campuses. The five- to seven-year campus revitalization development we recently began at the University of Kentucky has set this dynamic in motion. We predict that a number of larger universities will be attracted to this option that allows EdR to finance and manage the on-campus student housing renovation without any impact to their bottom line.

REIT.com: What steps are you taking at the property level to ramp up for the start of the school year?

Trubiana: For the past several weeks, we have had teams from our headquarters visiting all of our properties to assist our onsite community teams to make sure they are ready for the fall influx of residents. They do everything from replacing furniture or carpet to repainting and hanging blinds.

We also have a team that visits our brand new communities that are opening this fall. They have punch lists and are making sure that all is ready at these properties as well while the community team handles the move-in process and handles any last minute leasing. It is a traditional event that the student housing industry calls "turn."