JoAnn Blaylock, Grand Campus Living
- Feb 12, 2014
Student housing is undergoing a total transformation. That drab, boring dorm room you once bunked in? It’s probably being bulldozed as we speak.
In its place will be something closer to the amenity-filled new developments that are springing up to feed the desires of Millennial renters, who are getting their ideas about what makes ideal apartment living in the same place they’re getting their higher education—at college.
MHN spoke with JoAnn Blaylock, senior vice president at Grand Campus Living, a division of Lincoln Property Company. Blaylock has been a leader in the private student housing industry as it has transformed into a vibrant and trend-setting sector of multifamily, and she shared her thoughts on the ongoing evolution.
MHN: What are the newest housing features or amenities that you’re adding to student communities today that might not have been common in the past?
Blaylock: Students today—Millennials—have very busy schedules, and are accustomed to having things at their fingertips, at any time. Therefore, amenities that offer 24/7 access allow for the students to maintain their active daily lives without ever having to leave the community. Fitness centers with on demand fitness classes, TRX workout systems, well programmed interactive study and multipurpose rooms with Smart TVs are just some of the amenities that fulfill the students’ physical and academic needs. College students are also a very socially active group, making large gathering places, such as H2O decks, infinity pools, and outdoor/club lounge spaces very popular with today’s student, while resident events hosted in the spaces help build a necessary sense of community.
MHN: Many of your student properties are in the south and southwest. Do you identify any regional trend lines in the way student housing is developed?
Blaylock: The trend in establishing brand awareness within each market is beginning much earlier than we have seen in previous years. Grand Campus Living began actively establishing the community brand at all of our new lease ups in June and July. This has enabled the communities to begin creating relationships with the university organizations, sororities and fraternities as well as the university housing offices and maximize these important relationships as we introduce a new product to the students. The results have been earlier leasing and the ability to create leasing momentum and positive word of mouth.
MHN: Grand Campus Living was the recipient of a 2013 “Innovator Award” from Student Housing Business. Tell me about the project that you were recognized for and how it is innovative?
Blaylock: The project was The Vue at Texas Christian University (TCU), which brought a new standard of luxury living to the students of TCU. With only .8 acres of land to utilize, architectural and construction precision were used in order to accommodate a five story building that included 56 suites, a high-end retail space and a two and a half story parking garage. Additional care was focused on making sure the suites were modernized with a sustainable edge. Double pane energy efficient windows, increased insulation under the floor and in between walls was used to minimize noise and conserve energy, and the addition of electric car charging stations help align The Vue with the student’s vision of both efficiency and sustainability. The project easily distinguished itself in the market by offering an urban oasis featuring an H20 deck with outdoor gathering areas, rooftop lounge with large flat screen TVs all exceeded the expectations of our customers.
MHN: If you could time travel, which one of your Grand Campus communities would you most want to live at while being in college and why?
Blaylock: I grew up in Denton and attended the University of North Texas (UNT). If I could time travel back to my college years, besides having fewer wrinkles, I would want to live at a community that offered high end amenities, but more importantly social activities where I could meet my neighbors and be engaged in university life. So, I would choose to live at 33 North in Denton, Texas. The community is located within walking distance to campus and offers interior amenities that that are sleek, well designed and has a fantastic furniture package. Also, 33 North perfectly captures the “cool” vibe of UNT and the city of Denton. The social areas and the fitness center create a sense of community where the residents gather and socialize creating a college experience that is very desirable.
MHN: What insight have you gleaned from working in the student housing arena that informs your perspective on how multifamily communities might change in style or approach in the future?
Blaylock: The student housing sector is offering similar amenities as the high end luxury multifamily properties. Students are living in apartment homes that have interior and exterior amenities that were once only found in conventional communities. As the students leave college and enter the world of the young professional, their demands for interior and exterior amenities, lifestyle and customer service expectations will be that of an experienced renter. The conventional multifamily communities should stay in tune with what is happening within the student sector. This will allow for a purview into the renter of the future.
MHN: Some of these new campus-proximate communities are really over the top – offering a level of luxury unprecedented when students’ parents were in school. Who is driving the change—students, parents, colleges or developers?
Blaylock: The students are driving the trend towards luxury developments, as many Millennials have grown up accustomed to high-end finish-outs and accessible amenities in their schools, neighborhoods and communities. As today’s student needs and wants change, many developers, Fountain Residential for instance in this case, are continually outdoing the competition in terms of: location, finish-outs, and amenities offered. Coupled with the high end amenities, we are also focused on creating well designed study rooms and community areas where the students have quiet areas as well as social areas. Our residence life and student development program strives to create a living community where residents can flourish academically, engage in positive social interactions, and experience personal growth.