Michael Stoler — Dorm boom in the city

Student housing takes off despite downturn
By Michael Stoler | October 01, 2010 07:00AM

I don’t have a crystal ball about the overall market, but one thing is certain: It looks like thousands of new dormitories and student housing facilities will be built over the next decade.

This fall, full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollment reached close to 350,000 students in the New York metro area for the 10 largest colleges, a number that was up from last fall. Colleges and universities in the city will be spending billions of dollars on construction projects in the next decade, and dormitories are planned or opening at Fordham, Columbia, Pace, St. John’s and New York universities, the New School, and the City University of New York. It’s good news for developers looking for projects in this still-uncertain market.

CUNY, the nation’s largest urban public university, comprises 23 institutions serving some 259,000 full-time students. Although traditionally designed for commuters, some campuses have taken a different tack and a number of student residences were recently completed, or are in various stages of construction.

This spring, the Graduate Center Foundation, in cooperation with CUNY, began construction of an eight-story residence hall for students and faculty of the Graduate Center. The project is at 165 East 118th Street in East Harlem, adjacent to a new campus of the Hunter School of Social Work.

The project is being developed by the Brodsky Organization, pursuant to a development agreement with the City University Construction Fund, and will provide for 64 graduate student apartments in the project, with a total of 98 student beds.

In August, about 120 students from Baruch College of CUNY moved into a new dormitory located at 101 Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side. The 20-story, 353-bed dorm, originally planned to serve students at the School of Visual Arts, was completed in 2008.

Also in August, Brooklyn College opened its first-ever new residence hall. It sits about two blocks from campus on the corner of Kenilworth Place and Farragut Road. The facility, which is privately owned and operated, is designed to accommodate 280 students in 110 fully furnished apartments. And Queens College also welcomed students to its first residence hall last fall. The 155,738-square-foot building is located at 65-30 Kissena Boulevard in Flushing, in the heart of the campus. It provides housing for 506 students.

In May, the New School approved plans to begin construction on the largest capital project in the university’s history, a $353 million multi-use building. The 16-story building will rise on Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th streets, which is currently used for classes and offices. The Durst Organization will be the developer, and the building is scheduled for completion in September 2013. A major component of the project will be a 600-bed dormitory on the top nine floors.

Founded in 1883, Wagner College is a four-year private college located atop Grymes Hill in Staten Island. The college has three residence halls, where more than 80 percent of the students live. In January, Foundation Hall, named for the Richmond County Savings Foundation, opened, the first new dormitory built on the campus in more than four decades. The four-story, 72,000-square-foot building has a total of 200 beds.

The Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, in Downtown Brooklyn, is the original home of the university, dating back to 1926. This spring, the New York Post reported that LIU will lease the top three floors of its five-story building on Fulton Street owned by a partnership of Eli Gindi and Stanley Chera’s Crown Acquisitions. The university will be leasing a total of 120,000 square feet and will renovate the space into student housing.

And for more than a decade, Fordham University has been working with local community boards for approval of the expansion of its Lincoln Center campus. This summer, the City Council approved the university’s $1.6 billion master plan, which includes six new buildings with 1.5 million square feet of academic and dormitory space.

One of the largest planned expansions is by New York University, which will grow its physical size by 40 percent by adding approximately 6 million square feet of space. The plans have been widely covered and debated, but it’s worth noting here that the university has announced the need to accommodate about 4,000 additional students over the next 20 years, making housing a priority.

With planned major expansion of educational facilities throughout the city, expect to see continued development of dormitory and student housing space for the next quarter of a century.