Student Housing Business

MAY-JUN 2018

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

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VIE W FROM THE ACADEME May/June 2018 40 in someone almost once a month. I think we're booked into 2020 now in terms of executives who want to come back. The term I coined was 'Academitizing,' not amenitizing. For a long time the private sector has been about creating amenities that will draw people off-campus — granite countertops, big screen TVs, swimming pools and the like. But we have looked at how we connect with students academi- cally to promote the primary pur- pose people are in college. The programs that we build and the way that we structure these facili- ties are really grounded in that understanding. We're here to sup- port their academic success, so we put things in place to help do that. SHB: What is the state of Purdue's housing stock from a physical standpoint? How old is the hous- ing stock? Have you progressively developed over the years? McCuskey: We have two build- ings that were developed right around the same era, the late 1930s or 1940s — one of those just had a 75th birthday. Then we also have a ton of stuff that was built in the late 1950s and 1960s. Then we didn't do any building between the late 1960s and early 1990s, so we have one building that is circa 1993. Recently, we built three new facilities, so that would total 1,600 to 1,700 new beds. Then we have projects we're currently developing. SHB: You have some new devel- opments that are in the plan- ning phases. What's driving the demand for this new housing, and where are they in the development process? McCuskey: They are still in pro- curement, so nothing is quite set yet in terms of what they'll be, but we are targeting in the neighbor- hood of 1,100 beds. We're leasing a bunch of space off-campus cur- rently to keep up with our housing demand, and we're turning away a ton of students that we can't house. SHB: Are the new beds intended for first-year students? McCuskey: Yes, one of the new facilities will be targeted more toward first-year students. We're hoping to tie in a learning com- munity theme, so we have some learning communities we want to move there. The other building is more for upper-division students, and it ties to an existing building and makes it a community. SHB: Turning to your existing housing, what kind of feedback do you get from your residents? What do they like about living on-campus? McCuskey: A big part of it is loca- tion. I think our residents appreci- ate the academic influence. In fact, if you look at our return rate, the students who are in academic pro- grams are almost twice as likely to come back and live with us than students who aren't. So that academic connection does really make a difference. The second big- gest factor for us is meal plan. Students want to eat on campus — we have amazing food here. So that's a huge tie as well. We don't even sell off-campus meal plans because we wouldn't have the space to feed people. So that's part of the deal; if they want to eat, they have to stay. We're really doing a lot of work in student life on Generation Z and what this next generation is going to require. Clearly, technology is one of the key things that we need to be up on, stay up on and be prepared for to an even bigger degree down the road. The other thing that is probably more in line with our 'academitizing' is this frugality of Gen Z. They truly want value. It's not that they don't want quality, but they're not going to pay for things that they don't need. I sus- pect that we'll probably see some square footage tightening up, and amenities possibly tightening up because of the perceived value of what people get. Just knowing a little bit about hotels too, that's what you're seeing in some of the new hotel concepts: smaller bedrooms, but bigger lobbies and more connectivity for people to have a hangout space outside of their rooms. I suspect that's part of what we're going to be seeing in residence hall design as well. SHB: What's the most recent open- ing of a student housing property you've had there? McCuskey: We just opened our Honors College, 850 beds. It is two buildings connected underground that have all of the Honors College faculty and administration offices, as well as some academic space, where they can actually teach some of the courses in there. We also have a restaurant, so that multi- use concept. The Honors College residence hall is really popular and filled to the brim. In fact we expanded the capacity, we took it to the max. Some of the rooms that were doubles we had to make triples, and some of the singles we had to double just because of our capacity challenges. SHB: How did you develop that project? McCuskey: We developed it in- house. It was actually the first construction manager/contractors project in Indiana. The law was changed and we were able to jump on board with that and get this res- idence hall done. The big deal was definitely the academic integration piece that had not traditionally been done at Purdue. We're ret- rofitting some of our other build- ings now to have academic space because of the success of our new hall. For the rooms, we went with a pod style; rooms in pods with shared bathrooms. It managed the expense a little better than suites or apartment-style, plus creat- ed a better sense of community. Overall, it is a nice residence hall with some pretty cool features. It was LEED Gold-certified. We have a Cosi restaurant on site. We also have a large space — we call it the great room — after the Harry Potter great room, that they use for programs, and it actually has that Gothic style to it. SHB: Is housing at Purdue clus- tered on campus, or is it spread out? McCuskey: We pretty much run the entire western edge of cam- pus with housing. We looked at master-planning years ago to try to spread that out, or at least the quadrants, but it seems to work pretty well in terms of the proxim- ity to other features. We have a beautiful recreation center that's right there as well. SHB: Is there an affinity to any of the housing at Purdue? McCuskey: We had a 50th anni- versary party for our high-rises, and a couple hundred people came back to campus for the event. It was amazing. Our alumni still connect to where they lived 30, 40 and 50 years ago. A big part of that is just the community that's made here. We also have staff that have been here for many years, and remember these stu- dents from way back when. It was just so special to see that. SHB: What are some of the initia- tives that you have with student housing or student life? Purdue opened a new Honors College housing project in 2017; it has 850 beds.

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