Student Housing: N.C. State student housing in works

BY DAVID BRACKEN for News and Observer

N.C. State University students could have two new off-campus housing options when they arrive in Raleigh for classes in the fall of 2012.

Late last month, Landmark Properties of Athens, Ga., submitted a site plan for a 149-unit development in West Raleigh near where Western Boulevard, Hillsborough Street and Buck Jones Road intersect.

The $20 million project, called The Retreat at Raleigh, would be built next to the Wolf Creek off-campus student housing complex.

Another private developer, Capstone Development of Birmingham, Ala., is on track to open a 10-story, 277-unit apartment building adjacent to NCSU’s campus in August of next year.

Landmark owns and manages about 5,000 units in college towns in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas. The Retreat at Raleigh would be the company’s first project in North Carolina.

“There hasn’t been a lot of new development in that market for a while,” said Jason Doornbos, Landmark’s vice president of acquisitions and development. “There’s demand there, and we’ve got an interesting product type.”

The Retreat at Raleigh will feature cottagelike units spread across 22 acres. The complex, which will be a mix of two-, three- and four-bedroom units, is designed to appeal to groups of students who might otherwise rent a single-family house off-campus.

Founded in 2003, Landmark got its start building similar low-density developments in Athens, the home of the University of Georgia, after the town passed an ordinance stating that no more than three unrelated people could live in a house.

“We see that in a lot of college towns around the country because they don’t want students moving into the single-family neighborhoods and taking them over,” Doornbos said.

A Raleigh ordinance states that no more than four unrelated people can share a residence. Landmark’s project is under review by city planners.

In its current form the project won’t require a public hearing.

Landmark’s units will be open to nonstudents and those enrolled at other Raleigh colleges and universities.

Both Capstone and Landmark are betting that enrollment growth at NCSU will continue to outpace the university’s ability to add on-campus beds.

That is likely to be the case, even counting additional student housing planned for Centennial Campus, said Ralph Recchie, NCSUdirector of real estate. “I think there is enough business to warrant this kind of investment,” he said.

But Recchie said the university would prefer that additional housing be higher-density and closer to campus.

Such housing reduces students’ reliance on cars, and eases parking and congestion around the university. Landmark will provide a shuttle to campus for its tenants as part of their rent.

Having more students within walking distance of campus is also crucial to NCSU and Raleigh’s goal of turning Hillsborough Street into a more vibrant, pedestrian friendly strip.

“If development is going to happen we’d just assume it happen closer in,” Recchie said.

Of course, building closer to campus requires developers to pay more for available land that may be in short supply. That in turn leads to higher rents.

Doornbos said The Retreat at Raleigh would likely offer cheaper rates than Capstone’s Stanhope Center. Landmark has its 22-acre site under contract, and expects to close on the property after its site plan is approved.

As for financing, Doornbos said Landmark hasn’t yet secured the loan. The company has a group of banks, including Wells Fargo and BB&T, that it works with regularly on projects.

“It is a challenge in this market to get financing,” he said. “But for the people that have the balance sheet and the capacity to get it, the banks will lend.”


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