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FAU On The Fifth: New Student Housing Project Update

Greetings Owl Nation!

After some digging I finally found a rendering of the upcoming (hopefully) NW 5th Ave Student Apartments on the Corvue Holdings website (all rights to them, included here for commentary. Click on the link to see a larger version of the image).  This may be a preliminary rendering and not represent the final product but for now, hey, look at that!

Here’s the site as it looked a few days ago:

This 8 acres of land is literally right across the El Rio canal from FAU’s campus:

(The blue boxed line represents a NW 5th Avenue connector that FAU wants to build; the purple boxed line is a connector road I think both parties (FAU and the developer) should agree to build because it could not only provide direct access from the new dorm to campus but would also provide a great traffic diversion for gamedays)

Some quick history on this project, as best as I can cobble together:  the site above was the former home of Elysium, an adult living facility, and was sold for $4M in August 2013 (according to Redfin) to a developer named Campus Crest who was going to build a student housing project called “The Grove” there (as detailed in earlier blogs).  There are actually a ton of Groves all over the place.

Campus Crest ended up reorganizing and liquidating some assets, so the property was sold as part of a package in January 2015 for $6M to another student housing company,  CA Student Living, which has been working with the City of Boca Raton to get approval on the above – a “luxury” student housing project called “5th Ave Student Housing.” Per  the South Florida Business Journal, the developer would likely also be able to purchase an adjacent property currently occupied by a church to bring the total area to 12 acres. They note that CA Student Living is no stranger to the Florida student housing market, having previously built housing near UF and FSU.

10 Talking Points about this project:

1) Land in or near 20th street and campus is, per one developer at the 20th Street charrette, rare and extremely valuable because of its proximity to the university. In that sense, the $6M seems like a steal.

2) We absolutely should encourage more student housing near campus. More housing means fewer cars on the road, maybe fewer cars on campus, increased likelihood of student involvement on campus after class, and of course further building of the college town atmosphere.

3) I’ve read two numbers for student beds. The Curvue site says 560 beds over 160 units; other sites (including materials provided to the Planning and Zoning Board as recently as June 2016) say 640 beds. To put the size into perspective, 560 beds is about what each of the newer dorms hold (Parliament 614, IVAN 611, GPT 602, etc). University Park is about 600 beds. If they get approval for 640 beds, this project will be the largest student housing project in Boca Raton. Considering that the Corvue site also states that FAU’s enrollment is around 25k, I’m leaning towards the 640 figure.

4) Attorney Charles Simeon, who represents the developer, has been asking the City to create a special classification called “University Housing”. As I understand it, the classification would only apply to properties essentially right around campus and allow for a greater density than allowed elsewhere in the city. In plain English, “we want to be able to pack students into the apartments like they do on campus.” I don’t know the exact status on this but I’m sure both sides will negotiate something that works – after all, they did for University Park, though it took some finagling.

5) That said, student housing is in a weird place right now for Boca Raton. As you may have heard, the city got sued by the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches essentially because student housing projects currently allow each room to be a separate contract – as is the standard across the nation now so you don’t get screwed on the rent when your roommate can’t pay – but this made it impossible for potential renters with kids to rent there because the kids are under 18 and can’t sign a lease for their own room. To a non-legal person like me it seems like a simple fix (provide an option for those scenarios) but we’ll see what shakes out. In the meantime student housing may have to exist under the auspices of “multifamily housing”.

6) One of the reasons we’ve been talking about this project for a little while is not only because Campus Crest was going through some issues but also because the developers had to ensure that the project did not conflict with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s 20th Street planning (whenever that’s going to be finished; I don’t see it ANYWHERE on the website except as a line item in the budget section). Fortunately the TCRPC gave it a thumbs-up. Now maybe they could give us our 20th Street plan so we can move ahead there (is that asking too much? I actually don’t know. It’s been over a year).

7) Another great aspect of this location later on is that you can technically bike/walk from there north past Vistazo into the upcoming University Village project.

8) Not sure if there would be a shuttle service provided from the developer to and from campus like you have with University View/Park/Square. Maybe they'd negotiate to be included in their route? There's a new service called the TrOWLley that just started running students off-campus to places like the beach, Publix, etc… perhaps a stop at the new dorm could be included? Having an off-campus shuttle to take students from campus to Publix and the beach has been a project that's been cooking for awhile, glad to see it come to fruition. Mind you, this is different than the on-campus Owl Shuttle, the UPark Shuttle and… the Atlantic Shuttle? Pretty sure this is the new iteration of the Atlantic Shuttle. Definitely in school colors now! Want to see? Caught the trOWLley in action on 20th Street the other day:

9) I hope the design is a preliminary design because it's boxy and office building-ish, giving it a strange curb appeal. Add to that its nondescript name - NW 5th Ave Apartments, which I think you usually emphasize the address in the name when the address itself is a selling point, and it isn't here - and it comes off a bit cold and impersonal. University Gardens, Campus Crossing, Paradise Towers… there a lot of other names that could work here to tie it to the university and make it more approachable.

10) Some cool features that could also draw in students:
- A "Zombie Coffee and Donuts" franchise (see HERE) in the main lobby/thoroughfare; it's a self-serve coffee concept popular in D.C. with an awesome name and logo that's starting to spread to other places including Athens, Georgia - home of the University of Georgia. It'd be great to have a non-Starbucks place that could be open late; Zombie Coffee Athens is open til 3 am on the weekends. Very helpful for studying. Starbucks would not do that.
- pool with waterfall and outdoor walk-up bar (that one from the Dodger Stadium)
- study rooms/meeting space
- FAU mural
- scooters for rent

Just some thoughts!

The next question people always want to ask: when is it going to be built?

That’s been a moving target. The last thing I read was Fall 2017 but don’t quote me on that. Unless they start building soon, that seems a bit ambitious. With a student housing project you typically want to finish to allow people to move in end of July for the beginning of the school year in August, so I’d have to think either Fall 2017 or Fall 2018.

I’ll keep an eye on the site and let you know when I start seeing movement. Until then, as always…