Since launching in 1990, Capstone Cos. has emerged as a leader in student housing, with developments on 60 campuses nationwide. Unfortunately, Capstone isn't alone—student housing competitors and market-rate apartment developers alike have latched onto the lucrative coed demographic. As a result, the majority of those markets are overbuilt with garden-style apartment stock, says Capstone co-founder and executive vice president John Vawter. His firm's solution? Ditch the apartment concept entirely in favor of a community of cottage-style, neighborhood-oriented condo clusters.

“It's the top of the student housing pyramid,” Vawter says. “When students have a choice, they choose to live in a single-family-style house across the street from campus.” At the University of Auburn in Alabama, Capstone has delivered a product that meets that desire. Creekside's 360 condo units range from one-bedroom carriage houses to 18-bedroom, Greek-ready manor houses; all the units throughout the 50-acre development face the street and feature yards and balconies or decks.

Of the 360 units, Capstone fee-manages 85 units for investors subletting to students. Other than that, the buyers have all been parents of collegiate darlings. “A majority of the units have already changed hands at a higher price than the purchase price,” Vawter says. “But even if parents break even, they are ahead of the game, where student housing is often equal to or more than tuition rates.”

Creekside residents enjoy a pool and spa area and a clubhouse that features billiards, a cinema, tanning beds, a fitness facility with aerobic rooms and weight lifting equipment, and a café for lattes and smoothies. And all units include balconies and high-end finishes such as hardwood floors and granite countertops. Seemingly, the only reason for students to leave the community is to go to class, and to that end, the university's transit system makes several shuttle stops in the neighborhood. “I'm sure most of our residents will be taking a step down in lifestyle when they leave Creekside,” Vawter says, laughing. “But I guess that's what getting out in the real world is all about.”

Fast Facts Developer: Capstone Cos.

Architect: Dungan Nequette Architects

Builder: Cottage Builders

Opened: August 2006

No. of Units: 360

Unit Mix: One-bedroom carriage-style to 18-bedroom, four-unit manor-style student condos