Traditional college housing — the rickety, aging homes and rarely renovated apartments that smell like Ramen noodles — has had competitors from new luxury apartment buildings near campus.
Landmark Apartments, Sterling 411 Lofts, Zaragon Place and Zaragon West have all opened in the past five years, and several new luxury apartment complexes are on the rise.
Maggie Ladd, executive director of the South University Area Association, said prior to 2006, the association researched retail business and housing that was offered to students at different universities. Ann Arbor’s offerings, the research found, were subpar.
“We felt that Ann Arbor wasn’t filling the demand,” Ladd said.
Landmark is one complex erected to meet some of those demands. Its amenities are abundant: a hot tub, sauna, free bagel breakfasts, a built-in fitness center, granite kitchen countertops and more.
The catch: monthly rent in some units can exceed $2,000 per person.
“We have a very sophisticated student body,” Ladd said. “They are looking for state-of-the-art places to live as opposed to single-family places that have been turned into student apartments.”
Other universities seem to be attracting this “sophisticated” populace as well. Newspapers nationwide are commenting on the new amenities colleges and their surrounding towns are offering, matching their higher-income student body.
Rick Perlman, founder and president of Zaragon, Inc., said the University’s high tuition, which surpasses that of the other universities surrounding his properties, factors into the demand for high-rises.
“The fact that people are paying that large amount for out-of-state tuition generally shows a higher income per capita per family,” Perlman said.
Last year, The Washington Post reported on George Washington University’s “rich kid” stigma. It describes the scene at a rooftop deck at one of the city’s most expensive apartment buildings — surprisingly populated mostly by students.
“The number one thing that makes you popular at GW is money,” one GW student told the Post.
Back in Ann Arbor, the housing market reflects income disparity as well. LSA junior Amina Fishburn began her lease at Landmark this September after living in Baits Houses on North Campus her freshman year and a sorority house her sophomore year.
“There have been times when I don’t necessarily want to tell people where I live,” Fishburn said. “A little bit of a judgment does pass when you live in Landmark or Zaragon or any of the luxury apartments.”
The first high-rise to sprout near Central Campus was Zaragon Place, which Perlman developed in 2009. It is located about 1,200 steps from the Diag, Perlman said. Three years later, Perlman opened Zaragon West.
Perlman also owns property near the campuses of Western Michigan University and East Carolina University.
He said Ann Arbor is an expensive town in terms of real estate. Ann Arbor’s urban setting means less land and thus less area on which to build housing.
“There isn’t a bunch of land to build so you’re forced then to build vertically and that kind of construction is much more expensive,” Perlman said. “With much more expensive construction, you have to charge more to rent.”
On average, depending on the occupancy of the unit, residents pay from $1,000 to $1,400 per person each month in Zaragon Place. The International Center approximates that the rent per person at a two-bedroom apartment in Ann Arbor ranges from $400 to $600 per month.
Fishburn said the cost is worth it.
“When it comes down to it, I don’t think people necessarily realize that for what you’re paying, you’re actually getting a lot,” she said.
Ladd said the storefronts in the area are doing better because of the additional business brought in by high-rises such as Zaragon Place, Landmark and the soon to open ArborBLU.
“We’re hoping that long-term, students will move out of the neighborhoods and neighborhood houses will revert back to family use.”