Student Housing Business

JUL-AUG 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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Page 49 of 104

COMPANY PROFILE July/August 2018 49 of rebranding all of its properties as YOUnion, a name that harkens back to student unions of the past; gathering places where students can study and socialize in an aca- demic, nurturing environment. "The YOUnion brand is student- focused," says Strockis. "We're very excited to bring this brand to the students and their parents," he says. "It's a brand that has depth and meaning and resonates well with students." Conversion to the YOUnion brand can be quite involved for some properties. Near the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, SmartStop is converting the property it purchased, 411 Lofts, to YOUnion Student Living at the University of Michigan this fall. The company is working with BKV Design Group to remodel the project, adding plug-and-play study areas and other gathering places that will be conducive to students' academic endeavors. The company is also investing in the fitness area, making it state- of-the-art and available whenever students need to use it. "We want to create environ- ments where students can learn and collaborate, as well as get the rest and balance that they need," says Strockis. "We think that it is important that students be pro- ductive with their friends and fel- low students in the community." As such, SmartStop has been removing the pool tables, foosball tables and video game machines at the properties that it acquires and replacing these items with powered furniture. Strockis says this is resonating well with Gen Z students and their Gen X parents. "The YOUnion brand is a touch- point for students and parents, as well as investors," says Schwartz. "It's our intention that every one of our student housing prop- erties will be under our YOUnion brand," says Schwartz. "Many brands in the industry are not portfolio-wide. We have the ability not only to buy purpose-built stu- dent housing properties and align those under one brand to create additional value to the property but to also present a strong brand through social media opportu- nities with the residents at each university." Strockis says that SmartStop's relationship with ACH as man- ager of its properties is open and transparent. Because SmartStop is looking to create value at its prop- erties, it listens to residents and its management team about what is needed and reacts quickly. "Management, to us, really begins and ends with great on- site staff with a hospitality-first attitude," says Strockis. "We take a different view and really want to hire the best in class personnel." SmartStop makes improve- ments through amenities like add- ing the fastest Wi-Fi available in the market and renovating the common areas and adding better service. "We are not inclined to buy prop- erties with lazy rivers and putting greens that would promote party- ing," says Strockis. "Our brand is more about study areas that pro- mote learning and collaboration and being a place where students come to be productive and com- fortable. We are big believers in the way that people work these days. We want them to come in and plug in, and have places where they can gather and socialize, or work independently." Going forward, SmartStop has the goal of acquiring at least four student housing properties per year through its investment pro- grams. It has made two acqui- sitions this year, and plans to acquire two more properties dur- ing the third and fourth quarter to achieve its yearly goal. Through its various investment programs, SmartStop intends to become more prominent in the student housing space. SHB SmartStop acquired Aspyre at Assembly Station, a 760-bed student housing property near the University of South Carolina in February 2018.

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