Providing the Perfect Student Housing Amenity Through Mixed-Use Space

Both on- and off-campus, today’s student housing developments are providing more than just a place for students to rest their heads. Off campus, new communities are featuring everything from fashion boutiques and restaurants, to office and event space, while residence halls are bringing academics to student’s doorsteps with built-in incubator space and classrooms.

While the addition of a mix of uses may seem like the perfect fit for ground floor space, careful planning and consideration is imperative to ensure that the development is a success — especially when it comes to retail.

Choosing The Right Mix

On the development side, successful mixed-use space should begin with thoughtful deliberation. Developers must consider not only the needs of the student population, but the community at large. “At the outset, we evaluate whether there is true retail market demand in locations where we target development,” says JJ Smith, president of CA Student Living. “If there isn’t a sufficient population base, it can be difficult for even the best businesses to survive, much less thrive. We don’t want to force retail in locations that simply don’t make sense.”

Wes Rogers, president and CEO of Landmark Properties, knows firsthand how important careful planning can be when adding retail to a project. “We certainly made some mistakes with our earlier mixed-use projects,” he says. “We did not plan well for loading, grease traps, exhaust ventilation and the appropriate tenant improvement allowance. The local municipality almost always dictates incorporating retail or office space — most codes require some retail on the ground floor.”

“If a mix of uses is required, we now perform a retail market survey and talk to our in-house retail asset manager about its viability,” Rogers continues. “We then will program retail into the project — most often the minimum amount required by code. If your retail only targets the residents in the building, it is likely to fail. You need to target the broader community, as well as your residents.”

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