Morgan slows off-campus housing

After new dorm adds 1,275 beds, apartment complexes report low leasing.

A construction entrance to Diamond Green Apartments, which has been able to fill 80 percent of its spaces after the opening of Morgan Hall this semester. Managers at Diamond Green and The Edge said they have felt the impact of the residence hall’s opening. | Timothy Valshtein TTN
A construction entrance to Diamond Green Apartments, which has been able to fill 80 percent of its spaces after the opening of Morgan Hall this semester. Managers at Diamond Green and The Edge said they have felt the impact of the residence hall’s opening. | Timothy Valshtein TTN

After the opening of Morgan Hall increased bed space at on-campus housing by more than 35 percent, developers and property owners of various off-campus housing facilities said the trickle down effects are noticeable, though manageable.

Michael Scales, associate vice president for student affairs said the growth in on-campus housing from Morgan Hall is part of ongoing efforts by the university to ease community tensions around Temple by keeping more students in university housing.

“Any time we have students living on campus, there’s a positive effect on the community,” Scales said.

Morgan Hall has a capacity to house 1,275 students. According to Scales, roughly 5,500 students live on-campus and aside from a “few vacancies,” the newest residence hall is at its highest occupancy and filled its maximum about two months after on-campus housing opened for students.

Recent estimates from university officials place the number of students living in off-campus housing range from 7,000 to 10,000, a trend that has seen dramatic increases in the last 10 years. The rise in student rented properties has been met with a surge in new construction, both of dilapidated row houses and new apartment complexes aimed at luring student renters.

“First and foremost, there’s a demand for on-campus housing,” Scales said. “We fill a concern that’s valued. We’re filling concerns from campus safety services to proximity, to resources.”

Diamond Green, an off-campus student apartment complex with 92 units, is currently at 80 percent occupancy compared to 90 percent last year Angie Rodriguez, the property manager said.

However, the complex is on the market at a listing price of $31 million.

In an effort to lure students to the complex, which lies to the northeast of campus at 10th and Diamond streets, the owners offered incentives to renters including complete utility payment, free iPad minis, 10 free loads of laundry between the 2012 and 2013 leasing season.

Kelsey Degnan, a senior media and production studies major, has a four-person unit but only lives with two other roommates due to a lack people to fill the extra spots.

Degnan’s lived in the complex last year and continued her lease with Diamond Green out of convenience. She said the biggest concern is safety and sees it as a large deterrent for students to lease with the complex, claiming her roommate’s car window was broken by a rock.

“I don’t like it that much,” she said. “I would never really strongly suggest living here again. I don’t like the area. There’s a lot of people walking around that aren’t students. The rooms are really small and there’s just no space.”

Diamond Green was completed in the summer of 2012 and cost $20 million to build by Mosaic Development Partners and Orens Bros.

Currently, Diamond Green has fully furnished apartments available for $650 a month. The cheapest option at Morgan Hall is a 5-person, double room apartment for $4,725 per semester, a breakdown of about $1,575 a month.

The Edge, a 760 bed facility, has seen a larger impact after the university decided against renewing its housing contract after opening Morgan Hall.

The off-campus housing hall is currently at 63 to 75 percent occupancy opposed to 93 percent occupancy last year according to Christina Knowles, director of sales and leasing.

“Revenue has obviously decreased during this transitional year whilst the new product that is designed to appeal to non-freshman is introduced into the market,” Knowles said in an email.

That new demographic, at least this year, is an appeal to international students, which account for 80 percent of residents according to Knowles.

“Students from overseas are a key market for the village,” Knowles said. “The location and facilities are very well-suited to their needs and expectations. The team works closely with the university to ensure the experience supports both their studies and cultural experience.”

Yue Zhu, an accounting major and international student from China, moved into the Edge only one month ago.

“Other places had no rooms,” Zhu said. “The Edge had empty rooms.”

The Edge has four-person suites available for $645 a month, with amenities included.

University Village, owned by American Campus Communities, is at 100 percent occupancy according to Mathos Sokolo, residence life director and senior strategic communications major.

In addition, Paseo Verde, operated by Altman Management Company, is still finishing construction, but is not concerned about business from the Temple community.

“I think we have a different product,” said Donna Keegan, director of marketing and training for Altman Management Company.

Paseo Verde offers apartments, not shared suites, and as a result, caters more towards families and graduate students.

“We have graduate students looking for alternate housing,” she said. “That’s the niche that was serviced.”

Keegan said though apartments are still under construction, there are 60 units available with 22 units filled, 16 by Temple students, with a majority being graduate students.

The View at Montgomery owned and currently under development by Goldberg Group, is scheduled to open as a student housing facility in the fall of 2014. The property was purchased from the Philadelphia School District for $10.75 million 2008. The 832-bed facility will begin leasing rooms in the spring.

Beyond the large-scale apartment complexes popping up around campus, developers said the boom in housing has had a noticeable, but less profound effect on their real estate.

Peter Crawford, president of Crawford Development Group, said he has reached 100 percent occupancy, but at a much slower rate this year.

“I don’t think there’s a need for [more construction],” Crawford said. “But my vision for the Temple area is that they’ll house more undergrad students and that grad students will elect to stay in the area and a new breed of homeowner will move in the area. I hope that the apartments will be built, and the area will flood.”

Mitch Wolfson, operator of Willington Properties, said he’s also reached 100 percent occupancy for the year and doesn’t see much competition from on-campus housing.

“I don’t think Morgan hall has affected us,” he said. “There is a lot of building down at Temple. I think Morgan is a nice facility that will attract a certain niche of students.”

Wolfson said he believes construction has not yet reached a limit due to a constant and changing market with different products available to students.

Star Bocasan Little of TempleTown Realty said she has seen an affect from Morgan, but a minimal one.

Bocasan said Temple Town has not yet reached its maximum occupancy rates as of this year citing that now that there’s more on-campus housing available, it’s decreased the amount of applicants.

However, there is a different product available.

“With our properties, even with off campus housing it’s different,” she said. “There’s a feel and living style that dorms can’t offer.”

Boscasan said she believes that the continual construction is positive.

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for people to build stuff. There’s a lot of Temple students,” Boscasan said. “It’s great they’re trying to build community, as long as building is thoughtful and considerate of Temple then it’s OK.”

Patricia Madej can be reached at or on Twitter @patriciamadej.

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