Campus Evolution Villages making big push into Midwest student-housing market

The swimming pool at Campus Evolution Villages South at Kentucky's Murray State University.

The swimming pool at Campus Evolution Villages South at Kentucky’s Murray State University.

by Dan Rafter

Campus Evolution Villages already operates student housing in three Midwest states, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. But the company is planning an even bigger expansion in this part of the country.

Evan Danner, chief investment officer of Campus Evolution Villages, said that the Midwest is a logical place for expansion because of the quality of its many universities.

“Any expansion plans we have are always school-specific,” Danner said. “We like the universities that have 10,000 to 25,000 students. We are seeing a lot of those types of schools in the Midwest. That is our sweet spot. We continue to look for opportunities in that space.”

Danner won’t say yet which Midwest markets his company is targeting. But the company has already had success in the region. In Illinois, the Campus Evolution Villages runs Centennial Commons on the campus of Joliet Junior College in Joliet. In Warrensburg, Mo., the company runs the Campus Evolution Villages student-housing center on the campus of the University of Central Missouri.

And in Kentucky, the company runs three student-housing developments: Campus Evolution Villages South in Murray on the campus of Murray State University, Campus Evolution Villages on the same campus and Campus Evolution Villages on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

“When we choose a new location for our developments it boils down first to the university,” Danner said. “We look at the on-campus housing supply. We look at the local markets and the housing available in them. We consider this when deciding whether we should buy or build in that submarket. Then we look at the services that are available there in terms of retail and restaurants, doctors and so on. We are very focused on the student experience, not just housing but the absolute experience we can provide to them.”

Today’s student housing has certainly evolved. Many student developments mimic contemporary urban apartments. Campus Evolution Villages’ developments all feature club houses that serve as gathering points for residents. Developments also typically feature game rooms, study rooms, computer labs and swimming pools. Other amenities might include hot tubs, fire pits, sand volleyball courts and basketball courts.

“I know I didn’t have any of that when I went to college,” Danner said.

Danner says that student-housing developers do have to be careful, though. When it comes to amenities there is a tipping point.

“We are very focused on providing our residents with a clear path of fun and relaxation. But we are careful to make sure that it is not too much,” Danner said. “We want to provide study rooms, computer rooms and quiet spaces, too. We try to provide them with the right balance of extracurricular versus scholastic and academic spaces.”

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