Developers build for students

Blocks west of campus are subject to increase in construction.

The demand for student housing by Temple students has caused a spur of development and new construction that is not limited to on-campus housing. Blocks that previously did not feature student housing are popping with new constructions marketed at those who find on-campus living restricting or expensive.

In response to feedback from students and community members, Temple recently increased the on-campus student housing options by building the massive Morgan Hall.

Estimates for the population of students living off-campus has hovered around 7,000 in the past decade, according to university estimates. But growth offers potential profits for developers marketing to students who increasingly seek to break Temple’s commuter school mold by choosing to live on or around Main Campus. This year’s freshman cohort of 4,400 was the largest in five years at the university, and was joined by an additional 2,700 transfer students.

While many students may opt for life in the sleek, shiny tower with conveniently-located food and shopping options on the ground floor, many others choose to find apartments or houses in the neighborhood, often living with friends.

Blaise Sargent-Boone, a senior international business major, said finances were a major reason students opt to live off-campus.

“I feel like the big challenge is money because I understand Morgan Hall is a new place but I’m sure it’s really, really expensive,” Sargent-Boone said. “When it comes down to it, they can live [in their off-campus apartment] all year round, instead of having to get kicked out during holidays. That’s just a big issue.”

Sargent-Boone previously lived on Willington Street, just one of the areas that has seen many new construction projects this year. The 1600 block of Willington Street was one of several blocks around Temple that saw a spur of development during the past year.

Several garages and decrepit buildings were razed and replaced with new buildings, each with multiple apartment units. The developer of these spaces, Temple Villas, could not be reached at press time.

In addition to Willington Street, the 1800 block of North 16th Street, a hotspot of off-campus living, saw the construction of several new homes completed this summer. Areas of increasing new construction were also noted along Diamond Street west of campus.

Star Bocasan Little, a marketing manager at Templetown Realty, one of the largest real estate developers in North Philadelphia, said the new construction in previously underdeveloped areas is largely the result of student’s creating their own off-campus communities.

“It’s so different every year,” Bocasan Little said. “One year Diamond Street is the new hotspot and the next year south end of campus is more popular. It changes depending on the students and where their friends are living and what’s going on. For example, the 1800 block of North 16th Street used to be Frat Row. It made 17th street and 16th Street really popular because so many students were familiar with it because of that.”

While properties farther west of Broad Street have less appeal factor for students, Bocasan Little said the outgrowth of student housing will raise the value of the streets beyond 17th Street.

“I remember when the Edge wasn’t there and when the Edge was there, it made [the south] side of campus more vibrant and there was more stuff on this side,” Bocasan Little said. “Cecil B. [Moore Avenue] became more of a commercial area. When they build these really big anchors, it attracts things to there.”

Students living in the new constructions on Willington Street cite the proximity of other students as a draw factor.

“I noticed a lot of new construction, which is obviously student apartments and I thought it would be good [to live here],” said James Runzer, a sophomore geographic and urban studies major who lives on Willington Street. “There are definitely a good amount of students here. There’s still a few older houses left but it’s a lot of students now.”

Jimmy Thompson, who has lived on the 1600 block of Willington Street for 15 years, says that approximately five of the houses on the block are still inhabited by long-term, local residents.

“All the neighborhoods are changing,” Thompson said. “The rest of the us left, we’re still here. [Students] are all around me. I go this way, they’re on the corner. They’re all over the place.”

Thompson, whose home faces the new constructions, says that side of the street used to be garages. During his residency on Willington Street, he has seen major changes to the area.

“Nothing stays the same anymore, just like Broad [Street] and Cecil B. [Avenue] that tower they built,” Thompson said. “I thought I was in Chicago when I looked at [Morgan Hall]. I didn’t know Temple had skyscrapers in their mind.”

Though significant, Thompson says the changes are not unexpected.

“I knew it was coming,” Thompson said. “I knew it had to come. Nothing stays the same. Time moves on. Time waits for no man.”

Kate Kelly can be reached at

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