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Opinion: Best student housing for the buck

Eyes & Ears

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School is out for summer. For multifamily housing developers, that means shifting into another gear to prepare for the onslaught of leases coming in the fall.

The pursuit of student tenants is nothing new. But the volume is game-changing. Over a 10-year span, developers are approaching $200 million invested in off-campus student housing in Springfield.

With all those rooms and all those beds, we’ve seen multiple pricing models and ranges come into play. As I’ve tried to break them down, here’s the best student housing money can buy in the Springfield market.

$650-$900 range

• Vue on Walnut

The $23.6 million, L-shaped complex spanning between Walnut Street and Jefferson Avenue is not yet open. Representatives have said the 219,000-square-foot project should wrap up in August.

The pricing model is by the bed/room, which has become more popular in recent years. This one’s built for nearly 350 beds. If you’ve got three other students to room with, a four-room unit starts at $645 per person. Each bedroom has a private bathroom and personal closet. According to the floorplans, the suitemates share a washer and dryer, as well as a kitchen/dining area and living room outfitted with a smart television and furniture.

Rather bunk it alone? Studios start at $770.

Bonus: An interesting fact is the St. Louis developer who’s part of the ownership group graduated from Missouri State University in 1978. John Rooney of E-404 Construction is returning to his collegiate roots to make a place for future MSU students to live.

• Bear Village

Developer Bryan Magers has been successful establishing the development as can’t-miss housing for those looking around Missouri State University’s campus and, more importantly, it’s been effectively stamped as the home base for MSU students.

Currently available published prices are $745 per person in a two-bedroom unit and $925 for a one-bedroom. The flat fee includes utilities. But that’s the price you pay for the name recognition and to live steps from campus. Plus, the architecture is authoritative with rounded corners at major intersections and large windows showcasing the college life – fitness centers, coffee bars and media rooms for gathering.

SBJ learned last month that Magers had spent three decades slowly buying up properties with the intention of someday developing student housing. That day has come.

At nearly $50 million invested and some 800 beds, Bear Village is the giant in the mix. Magers has parlayed it into even more: He’s now building MSU’s first on-campus dorm in decades.

Bonus: Roommate matching. Just fill out a quick profile, and you can be paired up with a potential roomie.

• Sky Eleven

History meets hipster at Sky Eleven. Remember the old downtown building called The Woodruff? Ten stories, built in 1911, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Park Central East. Yep. After all, it was Springfield’s first skyscraper. Now, it’s part of the Vecino Group’s cluster of student housing dubbed Park East. A $15.5 million renovation in 2015 birthed new urban living. The three-bedroom unit starts at $640, and the largest one-bedroom starts at $870. Vecino Group developers know how to turn an aging structure into something fresh. They’ve done it four times over in downtown.

Bonus: City life gets you unique window views, plus a heated outdoor swimming pool, outdoor deck and shared community bikes and books.

$500-$700 range

• Verandas Apartments

This one jumps up on searches on the far south side of town. So it’s for the commuter student.

Verandas Apartments has the more typical lease model: low $600s for a studio, over $1,000 for two-bedrooms and up to $1,565 for a three-bedroom unit.

The style is Mediterranean on the outside, and inside there’s white cabinets and subway tile backsplashes. For the active student, there’s an indoor basketball hoop for half-court pickup games and a turf dog park with play equipment for Rover. The units are not advertised as furnished.

Bonus: Greenspace – plus quick access to James River Freeway and Campbell Avenue to shoot into the heart of the city.

• Aspen Heights

Austin, Texas-based Aspen Heights Construction LLC develops in college towns across the country. Think Stillwater, Oklahoma; Clemson, South Carolina; and Syracuse, New York. Three years ago, the firm chose Springfield – in a pretty big way: $40 million and over 560 beds.

On East St. Louis Street, the five-story Aspen Heights is another lease-per-bed model. Currently available spaces range between $600 and $700 for two- to four-bed units.

Like many of the complexes, Aspen Heights is billed as “all inclusive.” What that means here is fully furnished, utilities, Wi-Fi, cable, smart TVs, a “California-style” pool, 24/7 fitness center and tanning equipment. Now, it’s a half-mile to the northern edge of the MSU campus. So, the Bear Line shuttle runs here. Otherwise, it’s about a 10-minute walk. Also, the pet deposit is half the going rate of $500 in most student housing complexes.

Bonus: Hammons Field, where the Springfield Cardinals play minor league baseball, is in view out the windows on one side of the complex. It’s in the heart of center city.

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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