With nearly a dozen new student housing projects already underway — including two in Midtown Atlanta — an Athens, Georgia-based developer is shooting for another 40 projects around the country over the next half decade.
Landmark Properties CEO Wes Rogers is eyeing a massive pipeline of market-rate student housing projects in cities like Philadelphia; Seattle; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; Orlando, Florida; and Blacksburg, Virginia —home of Virginia Tech.
That is quite a jump for a firm that began in 2004 with a single project in its hometown of Athens, home to the University of Georgia.
Now it has more than $2B under ownership and management. This year alone, Landmark is underway with 11 projects across the nation, including The Standard at Berkeley, a 117-unit mixed-use project encompassing 410 beds just south of the University of California at Berkeley’s campus; The Standard and The Station, a mix of student apartments and cottage-style student housing developments next to North Carolina State; and The Standard at Austin, a 977-bed apartment project less than a mile from the University of Texas’ west campus.
Landmark just completed its Atlanta debut with The Standard in Midtown, a $110M, 765-bed project. Already 300 students — mainly from Georgia Tech — have leased a bed in that project in time for this school term, Rogers said. Student housing is a multifamily product where students rent by the bed rather than by the room. A typical project could include multiple beds per unit, with shared common rooms and at times shared bathrooms as well.
Landmark also is about to break ground on The Mark, a 28-story, nearly 800-bed student housing tower in Midtown Atlanta that will deliver by 2020.
Rogers said he expects Georgia Tech students to be the primary renter in both projects.
“There’s pent-up demand. We just built The Standard, and it leased up very quickly,” he said.
Landmark — the nation’s largest student housing developer — is riding a surge of student housing development across the country, particularly with off-campus market-rate properties that promise some of the same amenity mousetraps as found in regular apartments, features like rooftop pools, elaborate common areas and grilling stations.
As of 2018, some 15 major college and universities were expecting more than 1,000 new off-campus student beds under construction, RealPage reported in April. But with the added supply, pre-leasing at properties remained stable — more than 50% of beds under construction industry-wide earlier this year were pre-leased, according to RealPage.
Of course, distance from campus mattered. Those properties more than a half-mile from campus saw slower leasing.
Landmark has been focusing on markets with publicly chartered state institutions and select private university with at least 15,000 students. And while construction cost spikes have driven up development costs, Rogers said rents have been steadily increasing — 3.5% annual rent growth over the past five years with beds now fetching on average $1K to $1,300/month — encouraging its overall pipeline.
“You’re not going to see 10% rent growth in a given year, but you’re never going to see negative rent growth,” Rogers said.
CORRECTION, AUG. 24, 4:30 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the time frame for 40 new Landmark projects. It will take three to five years. Landmark also is the nation’s largest student housing developer. The story has been updated.