The landmark partnership between student housing REIT EdR and the University of Kentucky is about to enter another chapter with the renovation of Lewis Hall.
The building will offer 346 beds in two-bedroom suites and will be fully furnished with upscale appointments and a kitchenette. The development will bring the total number of beds EdR has provided to the school to 6,850 and will be fully financed through the developer’s On-Campus Equity Plan.
“Before UK entered into the public–private partnership with us, there were roughly 5,500 beds on campus, with an average age of 45 years,” says Tom Trubiana, EdR's president.
So Far, So Good
Before the EdR deal, each UK residence hall had a community bathroom and small, double-occupancy rooms. EdR is turning those traditional dorms into more modern living spaces for students, while also creating learning centers. “We try to get out in front and have an understanding of the demands and needs of universities and [their] students,” says Trubiana.
UK has seen tangible results from its partnership with EdR, says Trubiana. In 2014, 30,000 new students enrolled versus 27,000 in 2009. Not only is the student body more diverse, but freshman-class retention exceeds 90%. “What’s happening in those communities is a positive impact on students' lives,” says Trubiana.
That’s not to say EdR and UK haven’t faced some challenges along the way. Namely, increasing construction costs have made it harder to provide housing that students can afford.
“With each and every phase we do, there’s a strong desire by the university and by EdR to make sure our rents are affordable,” says Trubiana. “The projects make it more and more challenging to provide an adequate return while maintaining affordable rents for the students.”
Among its future collegiate projects, EdR will be developing graduate and replacement housing on Cornell University’s campus (though with a different form of financing from the arrangement with Kentucky). The developer has also been chosen by Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., to revive its on-campus housing.
Trubiana says what makes these partnerships so successful are EdR's relationships with its university clients.
“There’s a total alignment of interests," he says, "and we all work hard to make sure the relationship never changes.”