Surging UA Enrollment Attracts $150 Million in Private Student Housing Projects

by George Waldon  on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 12:00 am  

Ever-growing enrollment at the University of Arkansas has attracted $150 million worth of privately owned student housing near the Fayetteville campus.

The Grove, a 632-bed property developed by Campus Crest Communities Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., opened for business this summer. Three other projects are under construction that could bring another 1,983 beds on line for the 2013-14 school year if ambitious schedules don't overreach.

"It's substantial, and there are more coming," said Ramsay Ball, commercial real estate broker with the Bentonville office of Colliers International. (Click here for a list of projects.)

Another trio of projects valued at a combined $120 million-plus has received zoning approval and could produce a crop of more than 1,500 beds for the 2014-15 school year.

These niche multifamily projects are part of a mosaic of upward trending economic development activity in Fayetteville.

Sales tax collections have increased 5.5 percent to more than $16.6 million, and unemployment is down to 5.5 percent through June.

New commercial construction permits so far in 2012 total 730,000 SF, more than double the 330,000 SF a year ago. The city has issued 235 single-family construction permits compared with 155 for the same period 12 months ago.

"Things have definitely picked up, with activity scattered all over town," said Jeremy Pate, Fayetteville's development services director. "This is one of the first years that rental-occupied homes surpassed our owner-occupied homes."

Driving that is student-related housing, and the demand isn't slacking.

UA Chancellor David Gearhart's pronouncement that he wants enrollment to eventually reach 28,000 reaffirmed the direction of the market. An estimated 24,700 students are enrolled this fall at the flagship of the University of Arkansas System.

The Fayetteville campus already is a hodgepodge of construction sites of new, expanded and renovated facilities to accommodate the burgeoning undergraduate population.

In addition to classroom space, the university is in the process of adding 630 beds with two on-campus projects set to open next school year.

Nine-story Hotz Hall is undergoing renovation back to dorm space for 416 students, a $17.2 million endeavor. Housing for 214 students is a big part of the $26.5 million new Founders Hall that will include dining and retail space.



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