C?of?C student housing fetches $69 million

Located behind the Sottile Theatre, the privately owned Campus Center student housing complex was sold for $69 million last week, about a year after it was completed.

College of Charleston students who live in the year-old Campus Center apartments probably won't notice as they move in for the fall term, but the tucked-away property just changed ownership in a blockbuster real estate deal.

An investment group formed by Mount Pleasant-based McAlister Development Co. sold the eight-story housing complex at 50 George St. for $69 million to a joint venture led by Chicago-based Harrison Real Estate Capital.

The deal closed last week.

Based on the sale price, it's believed to be the largest commercial real estate transaction to date on the Charleston peninsula. The previous record was the $43 million purchase of Bank of America Place and the attached parking structure at 200 Meeting St. nearly a decade ago.

Campus Center developer Anthony McAlister said the buyer paid a premium while noting that the eight-figure price was based on several factors, including the prime location, a large, stable tenant base, the land acquisition expenses and the cost of the high-end construction materials.

"It was an expensive deal," he said of the project. He added: "We almost didn't do it."

McAlister's firm has built several other student housing developments for the college that collectively have added more than 1,800 beds on or near the school since 1995. He said he recognized the importance of housing undergraduates as close to campus as possible when he went there.

His firm started construction about two years ago on the 419-bed Campus Center, which includes a recreation center and details such as granite countertops, on a narrow 1.06-acre lot behind the Sottile Theatre. McAlister said he received the required certificate of occupancy from the city just 45 minutes before the first wave of students were scheduled to move in last August.

"It was a photo finish," he said.

McAlister has sold most of his previous downtown student housing deals to his alma mater.

"I really wanted the college to end up with this, but ultimately it wasn't good timing for them," he said.

He said his firm fielded numerous offers from national real estate investment firms, and decided to sell to the smaller, privately held Harrison-led venture. The group included Sterling University Housing, which is part of The Dinerstein Cos. of Houston.

"We didn't want to sell to someone the college couldn't pick up the phone and call," McAlister said.

Monthly rental rates at Campus Center range from $1,050 to $1,190 per bed, the property's website shows.

Brian Dinderstein, president of The Dinerstein Cos., said the vibrant near-campus location and the quality of the units were two of the big draws for the purchasers.

"We look for irreplaceable assets and in irreplaceable locations," he said Thursday.

Harrison Real Estate Capital, which invests money on behalf of wealthy families and individuals, is the majority owner. It considers Campus Center a "core" holding in it portfolio, Dinerstein said.

"The business plan is to own it for a long time," he said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name one of the buyers, The Dinerstein Cos. of Houston.