Remember when collegians choosing off-campus housing lived in bare bones abodes notable for their cramped quarters and communal bathrooms? No longer. Today’s college students demand a more luxuriant lifestyle. And Campus Suites/Ultimate Student Living Communities in Bowling Green, Ky. and West Lafayette, Ind. have earned high marks for giving them just that. In recent weeks, Western Kentucky University’s College Heights Herald anointed College Suites at Campbell Lane in Bowling Green best place to live off campus. West Lafayette’s The Exponent gave Campus Suites on the Lake similar honors.
Orlando-based Campus Suites, a 10-year-old development firm, has responded to evolving student preferences by creating more upscale housing. “Depending on the market, levels of expectations over the last few years have ratcheted up considerably,” President Henry Morton tells MHN. “What we’ve found is a lot of students come out of home environments where they had bed-bath parity. Every kid gravitates to their own bathrooms in the homes where they grew up. That’s not an upscale lifestyle. That’s in a lot of U.S. homes.”
At the same time, greater competition than before has emerged for available residents among off-campus housing providers, Morton reports. “So it’s a combination of your stakeholders wanting more, and your providers wanting to offer more to attract greater market share,” he says.
Ten-year-old Campus Suites has developed 11,000 beds of off-campus housing in the Midwest, mid-South, Arizona and College Park, Md. over the past 10 years. But it’s a sister management company, Ultimate Student Living, that Morton credits for his communities being tabbed “best places to live.”
Lease-up in the first year is exciting, “but what keeps them is the proverbial steak,” he says. “It’s how you execute as a management company. We create a lifestyle. A lot of these are purpose-built communities. We provide a programmed environment for [residents], whether in social interactions or in amenities like pools. And we try to provide value for them as well. We’re responsible for their needs; a lot of it comes down to attention to detail.”
For instance, residents at Campus Suites enjoy conveniences like the ability to pay rent, submit application fees and place maintenance requests online. And as in many urban rental communities, Campus Suites management teams slate a variety of social activities and events–from block parties and casino nights to drive-in movies–to help foster resident interaction.
Morton appears optimistic about the future of luxury off-campus student housing. “We have a number of projects we’re working on today,” he says. “It appears the opportunity for local entrepreneurs to partner with developers like us who have done this a number of times is very positive.”