Philadelphia’s Contribution to the Student Housing Industry

I am one of the fortunate ones who gets to observe the genesis of the student housing industry in Canada. I continue to meet new contacts all of which have the same conviction regarding Canadian student housing’s potential. I particularly enjoy meeting those who have experiences with or are educated about the U.S. student housing market and its players.

I recently spoke with a developer about his newly constructed, purpose-built student asset in Ottawa. – Beautiful asset by the way, 100% occupied with a waiting list in its first year of existence, which supports the hypothesis that Canadian students desire similar housing options that are available in the States and Europe.

As with most “getting to know you” conversations, both of us discussed our back grounds in the student business. Inevitably these conversations include “Do you know X? / Do you know Y?” It struck me that a common response of mine is always: “Yes I know him. We use to work together”.

As with with many of today’s student housing professionals, I am an alumni of GMH Capital Partners.  I spent most of the 2000’s at 10 Campus Boulevard, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, the corporate headquarters of GMH. During that time, GMH Communities Trust was the largest owner of student housing in the nation with more than 60,000 beds. In early 2008, the GMH portfolio was sold to ACC for $1.4 billion dollars.

Since 2008, a core group of the GMH team remained. GMH is once again growing a portfolio which currently totals 3,595 beds in seven states. GMH has an additional pipeline of approximately 2,131 beds.*

Others have relocated within the Philadelphia MSA and continue in the student housing business. When people think of where America’s premier student housing firms are based, they most likely think of Chicago or Austin, but the Philadelphia metro is home to a number of prominent student housing developers, owners and brokers all of which are manned with GMH alumni:

University Student Living (Marlton, NJ) – a company of The Michaels Organization, University Student Living was ranked #22 of the top 25 student housing owners in 2017 with 11 assets totaling 6,580 beds. University Student Living has a reported pipeline of eight properties totaling 7,748 beds.*

Balfour Beatty (Malvern, PA) – Divisions include Balfour Beatty Communities, Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions and Balfour Beatty Investments. Balfour Beatty ranked #14 of The Most Active Developers in Student Housing 2018 with six projects in the pipeline totaling 6,000 beds.*

Campus Apartments (Philadelphia, PA)– Currently celebrating their 60th year, Campus Apartments was ranked #7 of the top 25 student housing owners in 2017 with 33 assets totaling 17,048 beds. Campus Apartments has a reported 2018 development pipeline of an additional five properties totaling 2,039 beds.*

TSB Realty (Paoli, PA) is a full service, national investment sales firm specializing in the valuation and disposition of student housing communities. Founded by TSB Capital Advisors’ Timothy Bradley and GMH alumni Austin Repetto in 2014, TSB has closed over $2 billion in student housing sales totaling more than 22,000 beds since its inception. TSB currently has 10 properties on the market totaling more than 4,000 beds.

*Source: Student Housing Business’ “The Goldbook of Student Housing 2018”.

A few alumni ventured even further and are now located in the above mentioned student housing meccas of Chicago and Austin, holding senior positions at some of the nation’s most well know student housing firms.

When I think of the GMH alumni network I am reminded of the “coaching tree” concept in the NFL.  The most well know coaching tree is that of Bill Walsh who’s disciples went on to be great or even legendary coaches in their own right. Gary Holloway is considered a student housing pioneer so it is no surprise that those who worked for him in the early days have gone on to become today’s decision makers who are tasked with overseeing the evolution and growth of the U.S. student housing industry. I am proud of the accomplishments of my former colleagues and happy that I still call them friends.

Click link below to see the GMH coaching tree.

GMH Coaching Tree