By Kelsi Borland
March/April 2022 Real Estate Forum

Water slides, lazy rivers and exterior rock climbing walls. These outrageous amenities were the fad in student housing for the last few years, but today students are looking for traditional amenities in more pedestrian-friendly locations. While these over-the-top ame-nities haven’t disappeared completely, standard amenity packages with pools, fitness centers and communal spaces are dominating student demand once again.

Frederick W. Pierce, IV, president and CEO of Pierce Education Properties, says that fitness centers with yoga rooms and communal spaces like study rooms and game rooms are the top amenities.

He has also seen technology become standard with built-in high-speed Internet, keyless entry to the building and units and package rooms to handle the high volume of online deliveries. “There has been a move away from the more outrageous amenities, largely because new development is in pedestrian locations where it is difficult and expensive to provide those amenities on the postage-sized lots many of Within student housing, there are two primary property types, drive-to buildings and pedestrian buildings.

The pedestrian properties have never been able to accommodate sprawling amenity packages due to spatial constraints, but even these assets can include highend amenities for students. Pierce has seen some pedestrian properties with day spas, rooftop pools and big screen outdoor TVs. Drive-to locations, on the other hand, have more traditionally offered students big amenities in exchange for a more remote location. These have included resort swimming pools, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, dog parks and shuttle service to campus or parts of town for students without access to a car. Built-in amenities aren’t the only features attracting students. Champion says that the location is often a property’s biggest amenity. “The top amenity in student-housing is proximity to campus, Greek life and popular off-campus bars and restaurants.

It’s very common for students to either not have cars or for parking on or near these projects are being built on,” says Pierce. Property size is the biggest challenge to outfitting properties with over-the-top amenities. “First and foremost, it’s a challenge to acquire good real estate at a low enough basis that the cost to add amenities doesn’t diminish investment returns. There are size constraints, management challenges and corresponding costly marketing requirements,” says Garrett Champion, senior vice president, Champion Real Estate Company. However, the cost of these amenities has also made them prohibitive to include in student housing. Many of these amenities are not only expensive to build, but they are also expensive to operate.

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