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Rental Market in University District Showing No Signs of Slowing

Brent Warren Brent Warren Rental Market in University District Showing No Signs of SlowingThe new View on High apartment building in the University District — Photo by Walker Evans.
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If you’re looking for high-end student housing and were hoping to live in a new development like the View on High or Norwich Flats next year, you might be out of luck — both developments are fully leased for the fall, and have been since November of last year.

“In about two and a half weeks, we were fully leased,” said Jerry Solove, President of Solove Real Estate, adding that “the demand is clearly there.” Solove developed the five-story View on High with Mike Balakrishnan under the name of JSDI Celmark – the building replaced a stand-alone Wendy’s at 2020 North High Street.

Ryan Szymanski of Edwards Communities, the developer of Norwich Flats, described a similar experience with that 56-unit project overlooking Tuttle Park, saying that a latent market for fully-furnished apartments with high-end amenities quickly revealed itself when leasing began.

Szymanski and Solove each said that they were aware from the early stages of both projects that the rents they would need to charge to cover the cost of construction would be well above anything the campus area had seen before. The fact that the units are moving so quickly seems to have validated the risk they took, and bodes well for other area projects currently in various stages of the approval process.

A current list of such projects includes two from Edwards – one on Lane Avenue next to Tommy’s Pizza as well as a major project between 8th and 9th Avenues – while Elford Development is working on a concept for Lane and High, Buckeye Real Estate is rehabbing two buildings at 9th and High, the Robert Weiler Company is looking at the south campus Taco Bell site, and CA Ventures wants to build at 7th Avenue and High. Campus Partners also recently announced an ambitious plan to transform the area around 15th Avenue and High.

Szymanski and Solove provided their comments as part of an April 16th panel on University District development organized by the Columbus chapter of the Urban Land Institute. As for the impact of this development on the neighborhood, and the question of whether all of the new inventory will be absorbed, the panelists were mostly optimistic.

Moderator Vince Papsidero, Deputy Director of the Department of Development, pointed out that the recently-adopted University District Plan calls for increased density along High Street and Lane Avenue – what we are seeing now is developers responding not only to the market but to the city’s new policy. He said the hope is that by adding density to the walkable and transit-accessible core of campus, students can live more easily without a car. Another goal is to relieve some of the rental pressure on the rest of the neighborhood, which features a large number of single family houses currently rented out to students. 

Amanda Hoffsis, President of Campus Partners and Senior Director of Planning and Real Estate at OSU, said she sees the strong market for housing continuing, pointing out that OSU has grown by 7,300 students in last ten years while only adding about 3,400 new beds.

“That’s something that gets left out of the discussion of the sophomore rule,” she said, explaining that another overlooked factor is the large number of OSU employees potentially in the market for housing close to work. “The new hospital added a million square feet and hundreds of new employees, and OSU will be adding 300 new faculty over the next few years, and with each of those comes researchers and support staff.”

“This is an exciting time for OSU and for Columbus,” she added. “We’re excited to be here, but we take seriously our responsibility to the neighborhood to usher in these changes responsibly – it’s a hard thing to do without a crystal ball, it takes a lot of conversation.”

Solove echoed Hoffsis’ take on the expanding market for housing in the area.

“There’s been a paradigm shift in way housing is provide across the country,” he said. “From low-income product to market-rate, the major shift is in bringing revitalization to urban areas. Columbus is at the forefront of that effort, and what you see in the University District is a blurring of the difference between students, grad-students, and young professionals in the workforce – they all want urban living.”

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