Dallas—Brent Little has three teen-aged children at or near college age. So when the Dallas-based developer of student housing needs a sounding board for his ideas, he has a ready-made focus group seated around him at the family dinner table.
One thing he’s noticed from surveying his own offspring, Little tells MHN, is that “there’s nothing these kids have in their possession older than five years old they’re happy with. If we’re not innovating, we’re going to fail.”
That philosophy helped shape plans for 33 North, a 139-unit, 427-bed student housing community adjacent to the University of North Texas in Denton. The development will break ground this spring and is slated for a fall, 2013 delivery.
It is likely to be eagerly embraced upon its unveiling for the 2013-14 academic year. The University of North Texas is expected to grow from its current 36,000 to more than 45,000 students in the next five years. The market has absorbed 500 to 1,000 beds of new product annually for a decade, maintaining 97 percent market occupancy, with no signs of decreasing demand, Little reports.
Developed by Fountain Residential Partners, of which Little is president, 33 North is to be a luxury, five-story structure with commanding views of the University of North Texas campus just one block away. It will include one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartment homes, each featuring queen-sized pillow-top beds, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, simulated wood flooring, a premium furniture package and a 42-inch flat-screen TV in the living room.
Common area amenities will reflect the exclusivity of 33 North, and will include a luxurious clubhouse, study room, modern cardio theater fitness center, onsite leasing office and an infinity pool and outdoor deck, Little says.
The city of Denton recognized the need for smart growth nearer campus to help reduce strain on city services, and encourage students to walk to classes, Little says. But that doesn’t mean it was easy finding a location so close to campus.
“Especially around a school with 30,000 to 40,000 students, there’s no vacant zoned land,” Little says. “More and more we’re tearing something down. We’ve torn down everything from churches to biker bars and Kmarts. When you do your concentric ring study of available parcels, you’re looking at the underlying land value of everything. If you’re looking at a retail center, and it’s vibrant and doing well, you know that center will be a high-value target.
“But across the street may be a run-down, two-story apartment house with deferred maintenance and weeds growing in the parking lot. Not only will that have a much lower land value, but it will have an underlying multifamily zoning.”
The high-quality level of features and finishes at 33 North was very deliberately chosen to meet the discriminating tastes of today’s very particular college students, Little says. “I go back and look at the product built in the 1990s, and if you built that product today, no kid would live there. For one thing, there’d be no Internet. The levels of amenities [and] the finishes would not be up to today’s standards. Most of these kids these days not only don’t share a bathroom, they don’t share anything. It’s a very demanding clientele.”
The upscale nature of the building, its location adjacent to campus and the walkability it will deliver to students are likely to combine to make this area of Denton all the more vibrant. When students live closer to campus, they are more active on the campus and in the community as a whole, Little says.
“A new community that integrates with the existing neighborhood and city creates a living-learning relationship for the creative class,” he concludes.