Such widespread upgrading of college student accommodations has occurred only twice before in the history of student housing design, said Carla Yanni, a professor of art history at Rutgers University and the author of “Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory.”
Rapid construction of luxurious fraternity houses came in the late 19th century, driven by rising competition for the nicest house, she said. In the early 20th century, universities began to realize that the fraternities were dominating campus social life and had housing that was far better than that of most students. “They wanted to offer a social alternative, and focused their energies on building dormitories,” Ms. Yanni said.
Now, the design of new student housing complexes is largely dictated by the university environment, the student body demographic and the local marketplace. But as overall student expectations are changing, developers and management companies are rethinking much of what they are delivering.
“The standard has become highly amenitized — almost all of our communities have fitness facilities and pools, game rooms,” Mr. Oltersdorf said. “But in the upgrades we’re doing and some of the new developments, there’s a more practical focus.”
For example, Campus Advantage, in a partnership with Stark Enterprises of Cleveland, is building a 618-bed apartment-style complex near the University of Florida in Gainesville that will have more than 3,000 square feet of study space in eight rooms when it opens in 2020. That’s four times the amount of study space Campus Advantage put into a project it built in Knoxville, Tenn., three years ago, said Madison Meier, the company’s vice president for business development.
Campus Advantage has also developed a package of less tangible amenities for its communities aimed at helping students succeed, including bringing in staff to critique résumés and take professional head shots, as well as reporting on-time rent payments to credit agencies to help students establish a credit score.