- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - By the middle of this month, two more towering student apartment complexes will open their doors, adding more than 1,200 beds in downtown Lincoln.

Since 2002, student housing developments built by both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a slew of private companies have added 5,000 beds to the areas surrounding campus, changing the face of downtown Lincoln in the process.

In the South Haymarket, the 8N Lofts will open on the site of the former Baker Hardware at Eighth and N streets on Aug. 16, said Alie Hrabe, vice president of marketing and leasing for Trinitas, the Indiana-based student housing developer.

“We are on schedule and working closely with cleaners, furniture installers, interior decorators and a variety of other professionals to put the finishing touches on the property,” Hrabe said in an email. “We also have our team members, both local and corporate, working in the building to become familiar with the facility.”

The Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2b7F0C6 ) reports that 8N Lofts will have 624 beds in 172 apartments, although Trinitas did not say how many of those units have been leased.

On the eastern edge of downtown, straddling P Street near Antelope Valley, Aspen Lincoln is also wrapping up construction on three new buildings ahead of move-in scheduled this week.

“We’ll have everything complete by August 13 except for some landscaping,” said general manager Katie Sloan.

Aspen operates 14 student housing complexes across the country, including the 632-bed, 182-unit complex in Lincoln.

Aspen reported 60 percent of its Lincoln units were leased, and Sloan said community events for tenants began this summer.

Students have more options for living — both on and off campus — than ever, with UNL adding five complexes totaling 2,600 beds and 760 apartments since 2004. Those include the Courtyards, the Village, the Knoll Residential Center, Eastside Suites and University Suites.

At the same time, UNL is keeping Pound Hall open for a third straight year to handle an overflow of students who wish to live on campus.

Aspen and 8N will join other privately operated, large student housing complexes — Canopy Lofts, Parkhaus, the 50/50, Prime Place and Latitude Lincoln — that have opened in the same time period near campus, bringing online nearly 2,900 new beds.

The market is now over-saturated, one apartment manager said.

“There’s nothing wrong with people building new operations, but I think they built too many beds,” said Jerry Shoecraft, general manager of the 50/50. “There is concern — not on our part — that some buildings might not even be 50 percent leased.”

The 50/50, which is privately owned but situated on UNL’s campus at 18th and Q, was 100 percent leased in its first two years of operation, Shoecraft said. This year, leased units are approaching 90 percent.

At Latitude, which opened last year on the block at 10th and M streets, leasing figures appear to be unchanged.

Officials with Parkhaus, which opened atop the Larson building at 13th and Q streets in 2013, declined to be interviewed for this story, as did Prime Place, which opened last year in the North Bottoms neighborhood.

Canopy Lofts in the West Haymarket did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The city will monitor occupancy levels of student housing complexes later this year and see what demand looks like, said city planner Brandon Garrett.

The future success of Lincoln’s off-campus housing complexes depends on the rate of enrollment growth. Last year, UNL enrolled a record-high 25,260 students. Enrollment for the 2016-17 school year won’t be announced until the week after classes begin on Aug. 22.

Shoecraft said while he believes UNL’s enrollment will eventually reach former Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s goal of 30,000 students, it won’t happen quickly enough to fill each of the student housing options for the next few years.

“I think the market needs to settle down for a couple of years,” he said. “Everyone is pulling from each other now, and no one will get 100 percent.

“I’m confident one day we will, but it’s taking a heckuva lot longer than it has in the past,” he added.

In the meantime, Garrett said developers are beginning to eye new demographics in downtown Lincoln.

“Another segment of the market are condos, where people are purchasing these units as their primary dwelling,” he said. “There is also some desire for some senior housing options — we do have some already, but we may see more of those as well.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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