Student Housing: More apartments coming

By Ilene Aleshire for The Register-Guard

Another high-end apartment building aimed at students is planned near the Matthew Knight Arena, by the same people who recently completed the $12 million Courtside housing project in that area.

Portland developer Tom Cody and Eugene landowner and businessman Steve Romania are in the early stages of developing an even larger project, tentatively named Center Court, that will go up next door to the five-story, 47-unit Courtside.

They plan to start construction next month.

Cody said the new project will be similar to, but larger than, Courtside, with six stories and 76 apartments with a total of about 240 bedrooms.

It will have common areas that include a rooftop garden with an enclosed room next to it, giving students a place to socialize and study that will look out over the arena and the rest of the University of Oregon campus, he said.

Center Court also will have retail on the ground floor, including a restaurant and bar owned by longtime Eugene restaurateur Bob Jensen, who owns the Villard Street Pub, which will be torn down to make way for Center Court. The approximately half-acre parcel of land is owned by Steve Romania’s R.H. Land Co.

The building will be designed by Gene Sandoval, who also designed Courtside and the Jaqua Center, Cody said.

Like Courtside, it would incorporate green elements, Cody said.

The construction budget for Center Court isn’t finalized yet, Cody said, but he estimates the cost of the project will be “north of $15 million probably.”

Cody said financing has been lined up with San Diego-based California Bank & Trust, which also provided financing for Courtside. “It’s highly likely they’re going to continue and grow with us,” he said.

Cody said construction on the new complex at 1417 Villard St. will begin in October in order to have the building ready for students in fall 2012. It’s a short timeline, he said, but he added, “We built the last building (Courtside) in 8½ months — and we finished four days early.”

“Kudos to the city. They were really, really helpful,” he said.

“One of the reasons we’re going forward is if you can build, this a great time to do it,” Cody said. “Three years ago, construction costs were 15 to 20 percent more than they are today. That right there is the difference between making a project viable and throwing it in the round file. If you can create a compelling story and vision, you certainly have the wind in your sails in terms of pricing and interest rates.”

The big catch is that financing continues to be scarce for construction, particularly in Eugene, he said. “The local lending community has dried up.”

Cody said rents in Center Court will be equivalent to those at Courtside, which is offering three- and four-bedroom apartments at $1,950 and $2,600 on its website,

These are at the high end of student housing prices, he said, but “We’re not going to compete on price with other, older housing stock around campus. (Our market) is people willing to pay more for quality, for security, for great amenities.”

Courtside shows that there is a market for that type of building, Cody said.

“It’s a first for everybody. We were trying to set a new bar, and we’ve done that very successfully,” he said.

No one has tried to build a project like this before in Eugene, he said, and it’s difficult to lease a project while it’s still under construction.

Plus, some doubted that Cody, Romania and their partners could finish before fall term started, Cody said. But the building is now more than 75 percent leased, he said.

“We’re very pleased with that. We’re out of the woods as far as making debt service. And we’re looking at this long term, we’re looking ahead to year five, year 10,” Cody said.


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