Much like the retail industry, the coronavirus pandemic’s main effect on student housing was to accelerate already-emergent trends in concerning ways.

After years of developers shrinking unit sizes and increasing common space, tactics that have boosted margins, student demand had already begun to shift toward larger living rooms and decentralized community spaces, American Campus Communities Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships Jason Taylor said at Bisnow’s Annual Student Housing event hosted online in November.

“I know everyone here is taking a step back and saying, ‘We’re talking about the same things we’ve been talking about; it’s just more existential now,’” Taylor said.

Few parts of the student housing equation are better examples of an existential issue than ground-floor retail. Quick-service restaurants have done fairly well in adapting to new restrictions, but large, central dining areas and oversized campus bookstores are out of vogue in favor of maker spaces or other outlets for entrepreneurship.

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