Planned apartment complex aims to cater to students
November 11, 2011By Jamaal E. O'Neal
One of the largest housing developments announced in Wilmington since the start of the Great Recession could soon take flight in a couple of months.
Roanoke, Va.-based University Housing Group plans to break ground on nearly 14 acres of land for its $28 million, student-oriented housing development near the intersection of Randall Parkway and South Kerr Avenue.
Wes Bradley, president of University Housing Group, said Wilmington-based McKinley Building Corporation, along with Raleigh-based Centurion Construction, would oversee the development’s construction from start to finish.
Plans call for the development to be complete by the fall of 2012.
“We could break ground in 30 to 60 days,” Bradley said.
“Right now we’re dealing with some permitting issues involving Cape Fear Utilities in moving a water and sewage line necessary for the project, but we’re still on track with our construction timetable.”
Founded in 1986, University Housing Group specializes in student housing development across the South, including developments in Charlotte, Raleigh and Conway, S.C.
Jonathan Washburn, a broker and attorney with Wilmington-based Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners, negotiated the $3.3 million land transaction with the housing group in September.
Bradley said the remainder of the development’s funding will come from a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Mortgage Insurance for Rental and Cooperative Housing program, which assists for-profit builders in the construction, or rehabilitation, of rental housing by making capital more readily available to developers.
Many of the loans can be recouped over a 40-year period, or less, according to HUD documents pertaining to the loan.
“We’ve been working on this transaction with this company for five years,” Washburn said. “This is a good, solid deal for the area.”
Called Carolina Cove Apartments, plans include 84 two-bedroom units and 144 three-bedroom units, Bradley said. Other amenities include: covered porches, fully-equipped kitchens, laundry areas, cable TV access, a business center, pool, clubhouse and broadband Internet access. Each bedroom will also feature a full bath and walk-in closet.
Bradley said 12 acres would be dedicated to the student housing development, while the remaining two acres would be dedicated to preserve existing wetlands and a possible commercial development along Randall Parkway.
“Right now our focus is getting the housing constructed,” Bradley said. “If we notice a demand for commercial [development] once the people are moved in, we may consider it.”
Rents would start at $1,100 a month; however, Bradley said everyone living in the apartment unit would have the option to divide the total rent evenly.
“This complex will have a total of 600 beds,” Bradley said. “We feel that Wilmington is a great place for this type of development, and expect to begin leasing for the fall once construction is close to being complete . . . we hope by early to mid summer.”
The University Housing Group is developing the property privately, and is neither affiliated, nor under contract, with the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Cape Fear Community College.
But that doesn’t mean Wilmington’s college population had nothing to do with the development firm’s current business plans.
Cape Fear Community College and UNCW student enrollment is booming, and on-campus housing is scarce, prompting developers to respond to the demand.
“There is a growing demand for additional student housing development in a number of college communities across the country, and Wilmington is certainly one of them,” Bradley said.
“In some communities there is some resistance to these developments because many believe they are tied to the university, or the appearance may not match the appearance of the university . . . luckily that has not been the case in much of North Carolina and Wilmington.”
He’s not alone.
Local multi-family housing developer Adam Sosne noticed a need for more student-based housing after a 2010 UNCW report highlighted a shortage of 600 beds on its campus.
As a result, Sosne recently completed more than 48 units of luxury student housing on Wilshire Boulevard.
“There is a need,” Bradley said. “and we feel this development will fill that void.”
Bradley said once the development is complete, he will monitor how quickly the apartments are leased.
He said if the development is successful, there could be others to follow in the Wilmington area.
“We’re going to be watching this area,” Bradley said. “Wilmington has a lot going for itself, and I feel that the demand for these types of development in the Wilmington area are going to grow as the schools grow.”