Student Housing Has a New Mantra: Bigger Is Better

Off-campus complexes are getting larger, with some being home to more than 1,500 students, and being built on prime parcels of land as close to campus as possible.

When the Standard, an off-campus student housing complex, opened in the fall in Bloomington, Ind., welcoming its first batch of residents, it had a decidedly resort vibe. Along with the requisite pool and fitness centers, it enticed students with two pickleball courts, a dog park and a motion sports simulator. The complex even used a roommate-matching app.

The arms race over amenities in student housing is nothing new, but what is striking about the Standard is its size: 1,000 beds, about twice the size of a typical dorm. In fact, the Standard could house 3 percent of Indiana University’s 34,000-plus undergraduates.

Off-campus student housing complexes across the country are getting larger, some home to more than 1,500 students, and they are being built on prime parcels as close to campus as possible, as developers seek to better manage their bottom line.

“Having larger projects enables us to have more amenities as we can spread the costs out over a larger number of beds,” said J. Wesley Rogers, chief executive of Landmark Properties, the developer of Standard complexes in 23 states, including the one in Indiana.

But developers face challenges, including higher costs of land near campus and the possibility that college enrollment could decline.

The move toward larger complexes comes as the industry is shedding its image as a niche business run by local landlords and instead drawing more institutional and global investors, said Dave Borsos, vice president of capital markets for the National Multifamily Housing Council in Washington. The two largest international investors in the market now are the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Global Student Accommodation, a real estate management firm in London.

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