Student Housing Business

JAN-FEB 2018

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

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RETAIL January/February 2018 76 Programming Retail With thoughtful design and planning, retail in student housing projects can create the perfect amenity for both students and the surrounding community. By Katie Sloan T The prevalence of mixed-use student hous- ing developments is on the rise. On-campus, the industry is seeing an influx of properties featuring a live-learn aspect that brings aca- demics to the students' doorsteps. Off cam- pus, developers are incorporating everything from restaurants, coffee shops and services to fashion boutiques and event space. While the addition of retail can seem like an easy fill for ground floor space or a helpful amenity to students, there are many aspects to consider and careful planning is imperative from proj- ect conceptualization to ensure that the space remains healthy, and vibrant, not empty. "The first step to ensuring retail will be successful in any develop- ment is appropri- ately underwriting and conceptual- izing the project. This includes iden- tifying the cor- rect retail mix for a project and what the merchandis- ing plan is going to look like," says Matthew Stein, vice president and director of MSC University, a division of MSC Retail special- izing in retail in university settings, including student housing. "If you're fortunate enough to have a project that is well located for retail and the opportunity is such that retailers are going to want to be there, what really defines success is co-tenancy and creating a unique customer experience within the larger neigh- borhood and trade area." "There's a misconception that retail on the ground floor of a student housing building operates in a completely different function than retail in the larger real estate landscape," continues Stein. "Retail needs high visibility, foot and vehicular traffic, and strong demo- graphics and psychographics. The nuance in the higher education sector is being able to capture what are incredibly sophisticated cus- tomers. The types of retailers that work vary based on the market. A retailer that is going to be wildly successful in Athens, Georgia, may be different than a retailer that is going to be wildly successful in Tuscaloosa, Alabama." Another factor influencing the success of retail in a housing development is location, as oftentimes what makes a good student hous- ing property doesn't make for a good retail site. "There can be successful retail sites — with strong traffic counts, great visibility and easy access — that are also good student hous- ing sites (due to their proximity to campus), but rarely does a premier student housing site automatically equate to a great location for a traditional retail site," says Dusty Bat- sell, vice president of asset management and development for American Campus Commu- nities. "If you think about a lot of the markets that we're in, they're traditional college towns with smaller populations and thus less shop- pers — it's pretty rare for a student housing development to fall in that sweet spot. It has to make sense on the retail side for it to work, and when we work with tenants, a lot of the time we like to drive home that you have to make sure you're evaluating the site out- side of the fact that there's going to be 1,000 residents above it. It needs to be able to drive sales year-round, whether or not those stu- dents are going to be there." Andrew Wiedner, chief investment officer of Core Spaces, seconds the importance of catering to the surrounding community as well as the student population. "In order for retail to be successful, there has to be a draw beyond the residents liv- ing above," he says. "Many of the retail uses complement the residential and are heavily used by our residents, but there needs to be additional demand from the community in Georgia Heights at the University of Georgia in Athens was developed by EdR. The property offers 45,000 square feet of retail space occupied by CVS/pharmacy, J. Crew, SunTrust Bank, DP Dough, Cinnaholic, DressUp and Treehouse. MATT STEIN VP and director of MSC University, a division of MSC Retail

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