Philadelphia — The 5th annual InterFace On-Campus Housing conference culminated last week at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia.
Each year, the conference brings together a cross-section of all the stakeholders in on-campus housing, from academic institutions to developers, owners and vendors.
The first day of the conference, Oct. 24, began with on-campus tours of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, where attendees were able to visit The Summit at University and Chestnut Square by American Campus Communities at Drexel University, and New College House at the University of Pennsylvania.
In lieu of the tour, attendees were also able to attend facilitated discussions on incorporating retail into student housing and key issues and trends on-campus. Both events were followed by a successful cocktail reception.
Day two kicked off with our popular speed networking, which provides attendees a venue to meet fellow industry experts in short, one-minute conversations designed to spark conversation and grow new relationships.
Keynote speaker Michael Wood, youth expert with The 747 Group
Keynote speaker Michael Wood, youth expert with The 747 Group, continued the day with a deep look into the differences and similarities between generations from the baby boomers forward, and provided a look into important factors to consider when working to attract Generation Z.
In his speech, Wood noted that universities and on-campus properties should make sure to celebrate the arrival of students and congratulate them on making it to college — for the students, it’s not just another semester. He also noted that it is more important than ever to create an inclusive environment on-campus, and to place a focus on gender equality.
The day continued with a session on the state of student housing, which delved into issues and trends impacting on-campus housing across the country. The panel included representatives from the University of Florida, The Scion Group, Boston University, Design Collective, the University of Pennsylvania and Workshop Studios.
The session began with every panel member noting an industry trend. These included delving further into community colleges and other institutions, managing the expectation of student's families, the infusion of mixed-use into on-campus housing and taking a deeper look into how to best serve students when they arrive on-campus.
Krista Boren, director of housing operations at the University of Florida, noted that it is important to keep older properties on-campus up to date with new deliveries to make sure that students are happy with the housing options. Keeping the campus fresh is an important step to attracting and retaining new students. Boren also noted that it's important for your online representation of housing options to be expansive — many students cannot make it to campus for a tour, and it's important that they're able to see as much of where they may be living as possible.
"You have to really assess your older housing stock for three major factors when looking to update on-campus housing," says Douglas Berger, executive director of business services at the University of Pennsylvania. "First, you have to look at how the building fits into the master plan, and secondly, you have to look at how the building is doing on a residence life basis and whether or not it is meeting the goals of the university. The third aspect that you have to look into is code issues that you might be having with the building. You have to understand what you can do with the building, put a price tag to that, and see how much new construction will cost in comparison. We've found that you might not save as much money as you'd think with renovations. Keeping housing up to date is critical."
The session also highlighted the fact that it is important to offer students a range of housing options at every price point — from high-end to budget-friendly. Having a variety of options allows students to feel comfortable with spending what economically makes sense to them while not sacrificing on quality.
"There is no one size fits all for on-campus housing," says Ann Volz, project executive of advisory services at The Scion Group. "It's important to lay out every option and look at the balance between control and risk, debt capacity, credit rating and how all of those effect the strategic objectives and the students themselves. Every building on-campus and every situation is unique."
The day then took a turn to focus on public-private partnerships, with sessions on the college and university perspective regarding P3’s, and the present and future outlook for P3’s.
Table talks followed these sessions, where attendees were able to partake in informal and relaxed roundtable discussions on topics ranging from how P3 developers and residence life can best work together, to challenges and opportunities in creating community college residential housing and how retail and hospitality uses can benefit a campus.
The afternoon continued with sessions on architecture and design on-campus, understanding and evaluating P3 financing structures and challenges and solutions for developing new housing at small- and medium-size colleges and university, concluding with another successful cocktail reception.
The final day of the conference began with a session titled "The Influence of P3's on Their Surrounding Communities and the Influence of Surrounding Communities on a Project," moderated by Greg Lentine, director of campus development at PRC Group (Right). From left, William Feinberg, president of Feinberg & Associates; Andrew Christ, real estate development and capital operations at New Jersey City University; Aaron Aska, vice president for administration and finance at New Jersey City University; and Curt Heuring, vice president for administration at The College of New Jersey.
The final day of the conference began with a session on the influence of P3’s on their surrounding community and the influence of surrounding communities on a project. In this panel, we took a look at several recent P3 developments in New Jersey and the role the community played throughout development.
The day continued with a look at issues and trends in on-campus management and operations, where representatives from RISE: A Real Estate Company, Landmark Properties, the University of Michigan, University Student Housing and Bluffstone delved into what is important to focus on with management today.
Thursday’s events concluded with a session on keeping up with the technology needs of today and tomorrow, and a spotlight on hot projects that opened in 2017 or that are under construction for 2018.
Student Housing Business and InterFace Conference Group would like to thank our attendees, sponsors, speakers and moderators for making the 5th annual On-Campus Housing conference a resounding success.
— Katie Sloan