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Dec. 7, 2012

Student Housing Community Planned for Downtown Atlanta

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Atlanta—In a $7.9 million transaction brokered by Atlanta’s Bull Realty, a development site in downtown Atlanta has been sold to an affiliate of Valdosta, Ga.-based Ambling University Development Group. The buyer intends to build a student-housing community in close proximity to Georgia State University’s new business and law schools.

The site currently is occupied by a 200-room Ramada hotel, rental-car facility and parking garage. The site will be redeveloped in two phases. The first will involve a redevelopment of the hotel into a 138-unit, 291-bed student housing facility opening next summer. The second will yield a totally new tower offering 108 housing units and 424 beds, as well as a new parking garage. It will open in summer, 2014. Included in the second phase will be approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space, likely to be at least partially filled by new restaurants.

In addition to the property’s close proximity to Georgia State University and its 32,000- student population, it’s also well situated to provide transportation conveniences. Interstate highways 75 and 85 are easily accessible, as is Atlanta’s commuter rail. Also nearby will be the city’s new streetcar line, slated to launch next year.

“Georgia State [University] continues to grow, even as the rest of the Georgia State system has seen flat growth or even some decline,” John DeYonker, Bull Realty vice president of land and development services, tells MHN. DeYonker represented the seller, Legacy Palms LLC, in the disposition.

“This particular location is right in the middle of [the university’s] projected campus growth,” he says. “The campus is growing north, which makes this the ideal site . . . The new business and law school will be catty corner to the site.”

Additionally, the timing was right for this sale, DeYonker says. “Student housing is in vogue, so institutional investors are willing to put up the money to get the project built. Universities are looking for private investors to do it on their own, or to arrange public-private ventures to do it. That’s because the universities are facing budget cuts and don’t have the funds themselves to expand their student housing.”

The challenges encountered in the transaction weren’t out of the ordinary. “You have to go through the government approval process,” DeYonker says.

“The zoning was in place, but you have to get the plans approved. And even though student housing is a popular asset class right now, you still have to find the equity and construction financing to get it done.”

DeYonker believes the new student housing will be good for Georgia State University and for Atlanta itself. “The more people we can get living downtown, the more vibrancy will be added to the landscape,” he says. “To get more retail, more commercial businesses down there, you have to have people living down there.”

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