A few years ago, condominiums were planned to be built on a long-vacant plot at Morrison Drive and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge off-ramp on the Charleston peninsula.
Those plans eventually faded, and now a student housing apartment development is being proposed for the 2.4-acre site.
Private developers have submitted plans for a six-story, A-shaped student housing complex at 930 Morrison Drive with two courtyards and a pool.
The proposal comes as college towns throughout the country are witnessing a student housing boom aided by growing enrollments.
Atlanta-based ARA, an investment advisory brokerage firm that focuses exclusively on the multifamily housing industry, said in a new report that this niche of the real estate business recorded sales of $3.7 billion last year, up from $1.9 billion in 2011.
Chris Epp, co-director of ARA’s national student housing group, said some investors have delved into student housing because of its potential payoff.
“Student housing in 2008 and 2009 was a recession-proof investment because kids who were previously employed ended up going back to school,” he said.
Epp added that student housing has been “fragmented and underserved,” and demand will continue to rise for at least the next five years, with a possible peak about 2020.
The group’s latest year-end report tracked 71 student housing developments across the nation, providing nearly 40,000 beds.
“It has been known as conventional multifamily houses that wasn’t focused on student housing, but filled with students,” Epp said. “These kids have different needs. They need one bedroom and a bathroom and locks on the door and better amenity sets, too.”
He added that the need has “spawned this whole new generation of student housing units that are super-luxury and pinpointed on student housing alone.”
A 2008 proposal for the Morrison Drive site showed a mixed-used development of condominiums and retail space.
The new student housing plan is now before the city’s Board of Architectural Review. The panel this week deferred any decision on the concept until after the developers address issues such as building materials and aesthetics.
The Morrison Drive property is owned by UTCF LLC. Charleston attorney Charles Patrick, a managing member for the group, said Tuesday that a sale of the property is possible.
Representatives of CampusWorks Development, an Indian Trail, N.C.-based student housing developer, were at this week’s BAR meeting. Company officials told The Post and Courier they would not comment about the Morrison Drive site until the property is acquired.
CampusWorks has been involved in several college apartment projects throughout the country, including deals at North Carolina State University and Clemson University, according to its website.
The Morrison Drive site isn’t the only new housing project on the peninsula to target the college crowd.
Greenville-based Davis Property Group is building a 42-unit student apartment complex on 1.17 acres at the southeast corner of Meeting and Reid streets. It is scheduled to open by August.
That property also was supposed to be developed into a mixed-use condominium project, but that plan changed with the market.
Developer Russ Davis has cited a shortage of on-campus housing as one reason behind the shift. He has calculated that about 20,000 students attend schools in and around Charleston.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.
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