Hines, Blue Noble Invest in Italian Student Housing Project

The partners acquired the former Municipal Theatre in central Florence through their Future Living property fund.

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A joint venture between global real estate firm Hines and international real estate investment management company Blue Noble is developing its first residential rental property in Italy following its acquisition of two student housing sites in 2018. The acquisition was the third made through the joint venture’s Future Living property fund managed by Savills Investment Management SGR SpA.

The JV acquired the site of the former Municipal Theatre in central Florence, Italy, from Cassa Depositi e Prestiti for an undisclosed price and will build a high-quality serviced apartment community. Construction is expected to start in mid-2020 and be completed by late 2022. The development will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom floorplans in a mix of for-sale and rental units. The asset will offer modern finishes and services, including common areas, retail, gym and parking. The property is located on Corso Italia, an iconic street in Florence, about a 10-minute walk from Santa Maria Novella Church and 15 minutes from the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Executives with both firms commented on the city’s historical and cultural significance and said they expect to target more rental apartment acquisitions in Florence as well as Rome, Venice and Milan. Mario Abbadessa, Italy country head for Hines, said in a prepared statement the joint venture believes the Florence project could be a model for other housing projects in Italy. Both he and Blue Noble CEO Paul Forshaw noted the city has a major potential for growth but is facing a lack of supply of quality rental housing.

Student Housing Sites

The JV first focused on the student accommodation sector in Italy, acquiring two sites in Milan in March 2018—via Giovenale and via Ripamonti, which will deliver a total of approximately 1,300 student beds near Bocconi University. The developments are scheduled to be completed this year and feature common areas, study rooms, libraries, cinemas and gyms. The projects are also expected to offer micro apartments and rooms targeting young professionals in need of short-term accommodations.

Hines has been active in the student housing sector elsewhere in Europe. In November 2017, the company planned to open a U.K. student housing development slated for completion for the 2019-2020 academic year. The 630-bed project near Lancaster University in Lancaster, U.K., was developed in a joint venture with Henderson Park, a European real estate investment platform.

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