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Posted on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Luxury amenities overshadow studying in new student housing projects

By Lizzy Alfs

Student housing developers across the country are wielding lavish amenities to attract tenants, and that might come with some academic consequences, the New York Times reports.

With amenities like beach volleyball courts, game rooms and outdoor pools, these high-end student apartment buildings might seem more like a vacation than school.


Ann Arbor's 600-bed Landmark student high-rise has a movie theater, tanning beds and outdoor lounge.

Melanie Maxwell |

“As private housing developers try harder than ever to outdo the amenities that their competitors offer in college towns, concern is growing about the academic and social consequences of upscale off-campus student housing,” the report says.

In spite of the economic downturn, the student housing market in many college towns has remained strong and Ann Arbor is no exception. The downtown and near-campus apartment market has welcomed more than 1,500 new beds in the past several years. Meanwhile, approved and under-construction projects will result in an additional 1,300 beds in the coming years.

As housing competition increases, developers are looking for ways to set their buildings apart and attract tenants. Their conclusion? Amenities.

Downtown Ann Arbor’s flashy new student high-rise apartment complexes such as Landmark, Zaragon Place and Zaragon West are offering a wide assortment of amenities to attract tenants — even as rental prices reach as high as $1,745 per bed.

The question is, with services such as a movie theater, outdoor hot tubs and billiards tables, will academic importance fall by the wayside?

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


sandy schopbach

Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 10:39 a.m.

Man, when the New York Times gets on your case, you know you've hit The Big Time.

new to A2

Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 6:40 a.m.

I want to start by saying that I am not rich by any means. My wife and I make a modest income and are barely covering the cost of a U of M education. My student is living in one of these "luxury" high rises this Fall. Anyone who is bashing these should consider doing the math. These aprtments are not much more a year (especially if you can sublet the Summer term). The room is approx $12500 a year. A comparable room (single with a corrider bath) in a residence hall will cost $11640. I know that the residence hall gets a basic meal plan, but it can be incredibly cheap for a student to cook real food for themselves. We made a deal for our student to get a summer job and if necessary a part time job during school to cover food costs. Also, you have to share a bathroom with everyone on your floor (communicable disease anyone?). Your room is a cube that has no escape. I don't agree with the tanning beds but what's wrong with a movie theater room? Honestly, if they can get free entertainment without leaving the building, that's good, right? They have TV rooms in the dorms, whats the difference? The rooms are fully furnished, so parents don't have to find or BUY furniture and then ship it or move it themselves at a cost. They don't allow parties. The buildings are safe and everything works. I had to pay zero security deposit so we don't have to haggle with a landlord to get that returned at the end of the year. You ever have a college landlord who didn't fix things right away? I did 25 years ago. It sucked and made school life almost unbearable with nowhere to go. I look at some of these run down student houses around town and would be ashamed as a Father to allow my student to live in some of them.


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

Just FYI - and it doesn't sound like you would go for this - you can buy a meal plan without being a dorm resident. Depending on your student's schedule, they could have a fairly decent hot lunch at the dorm of their choice, then would only be responsible for having a lighter dinner on their own at night. It could free up some time cooking and cleaning up afterward.

Dirty Mouth

Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 1:51 a.m.

The new Manhattan: I for one love the idea of failing out of History 101 and returning to my penthouse for a massage, a film, and quick dip in the tanning bed. Momsie and Dadsie are footing the bill and so what do I care if this building killed the neighborhood. Oops, my Mercedes SUV is double parke. Ta.


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 1:30 a.m.

Simple & well-supported fact: the children of the wealthy almost never volunteer for any kind of public service that doesn't involve privilege and power. (say, the "service" of getting elected to a seat in overpaid Congress - for example). Almost none volunteer for our armed forces (another example). The process of growing into adulthood isn't done by providing a constant (ego bolstering) stream of "higher element" things. Adam Lanza (for example) benefitted from $280,000 / year child support from his father. Lotta good that did him (and us!).


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

Perhaps they should consider the law suits when students develop melanoma, the most deadliest form of skin cancer from using the tanning beds...ditch the tanning beds and install more hot tubs.

Mary Keeley

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

After hearing how the luxuries are Needed for the students we will again hear the whines about paying back student loans. IF you are living off of loans you can not afford luxury


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 10:19 p.m.

Are these luxury student apartment buildings near full capacity? It must be nice having a great view from the 10th or 15 th floor. Surely these same students will expect that and more from there future employer.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

I think it's pretty obvious that "some developers" are just recognizing that "some parents" of U of M students have vastly more money they're will to spend to "keep their kids" in the wealthy home environment to which they've become accustomed. From the number of units, I think it's a market only for the top 10% of parents (and their kids). I wonder if it's true that a little adversity makes the goal more worthwhile.

new to A2

Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 6:48 a.m.

Many of the rooms in the Landmark building are in the $1000 a month range. Or about the same as a room in most of the run down houses around town. The lower utilities in an aparmtent would probalby offset the differnece in rent anyways. What's it cost to heat one of those 8 bedroom houses each Winter month?


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

@Bill Wilson: OR--- we can just recognize that some parents prefer to substitute actual parenting with "higher element" things. LOL! Tip: try to restrain the fanboy enthusiasm for toxic ideology and try understanding what facing the real world with all of its "old porches with couches on them" does for building honest character. :-)


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

@Bill Wilson- If you're not hanging out on an old porch with a couch on it in Ann Arbor as a student, then you're doing something wrong.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

OR--- These same parents would rather spend slightly more to keep their children from housing whose best social areas are an old porch with a couch on it.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

I can't wait to see what these luxury student apartments look like in 10-15 years after all the "wear and tear" of student life.


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 2:09 a.m.

Your comparison and argument is moot. You are comparing student housing to an investment??? These entitled students are RENTING not owning.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

My Gold Key time share at the Boardwalk Hotel in Virginia Beach looked great, and it looked great after nearly twice that length of time. Why? Because it had good management, and management and those leasing and owning keep/kept the property in shape. I so believed in Gold Key, that I traded up to an even larger and more luxurious lockout suite at the Ocean Beach Club. It's been nearly five years now @ the OBC, and management there has actually improved the property. These modern apartments will be no different. Believe it or not, but when you aspire to higher elements in life, keeping them up is a labor of love.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

Lizzy, Am I not understanding you? Or are you really saying that competition does not lead to competitive pricing? Walmart is wrong?


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

Competition often leads to monopolistic pricing. After all, the natural course of unrestrained competition is to consume or destroy your competition.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

And what's wrong with appealing to a higher element of life? The reality is that other high-end schools already offer a much more diversified campus life. Ann Arbor is in a catch-up mode. And, it's about time. Or should we just keep these dilapidated, below-code old houses as Ann Arbor's legacy?


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:53 p.m.

@Bill Wilson.....are you an astrobiologist? What exactly do you mean by "higher element of life?" Are you insinuating that this is a more refined class of people? What planet did you come from? Never mind.......


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

I'm not sure how you grew up, but "dilapidated, below-code old houses" are often called "places I can live that my parents can afford to pay for." It takes a long time in life to be able to afford to pay for somebody else's rent.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

The rental market in Ann Arbor is already bloated, meaning that both students and non-students who lease apartments / houses must pay ridiculous prices for *any* property. I wonder how these pimped out apartments, with their skyrocketing rental costs, are going to affect the rental market overall.


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

I agree with Arborcomment While all apartments are still in demand, all rents will rise. And the new luxury apartments with their luxury rates will allow the cheaper rates to go up and still look like a (relatively) good deal. But when a 'glut' (oversupply) actually happens, and owners start having trouble renting their older units, then you will see price differentials growing. And probably exactly as was stated, by offering 'free' months and such, to keep the listed price high. And, as Lizzy states, at some point older properties not so close to campus may be converted to other options. But if anyone thinks it will happen today or even next fall, they would probably be wrong.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:38 p.m.

DJ, it will go up until the market is saturated - then the "deals" will come out, first one month "free", then "two", then "adjustments".


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Those who have been saying more units will drive down rates have their heads in the sand. Look at what is happening, prices are going up. The rental high-rise glut is bad for everyone but the landlords.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Also, @Anansi: I wrote this story last week on the fringe student properties that examines if/how the new buildings will affect outlying neighborhoods. Here is that story if you're interested:

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

@Samuel Burns: I'm hearing about huge rental rate jumps, like the one you mentioned. Some landlords have told me that the new buildings are allowing them to RAISE prices, as long as they remain under the "high-end" threshold. So, if the new building is $1,500 per room, $900 seems like a "deal."

Samuel Burns

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

They are driving prices up all over. I left A2 in 2010, and just returned this spring. I was looking at places downtown, and couldn't believe how much prices have gone up in the last few years. The studio apartment that I paid $650/month for in 2010 is listed for over $900 now. It's insane.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

Lizzy: Please check with UM, and find out the average GPAs of these students who live in these luxury buildings, are they better or worse students?


Tue, Jun 18, 2013 : 2:12 a.m.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. No faculty member, no administrator, absolutely no one can give out a student's information let alone a GPA unless explicitly instructed to by said student.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 10 p.m.

While we're on the subject of GPAs, Do you actually think it's possible (and legal) for Ann to get a list of residents at these buildings (private information), then cross-reference it with a grade request from the University (private information), then publish the result in a newspaper?


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 9 p.m.

And Im sure they would freely give out that information to the press. Ummm....FERPA, heard of it?


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

I'm sure UM keeps track of that....


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

It's all about greed and profit for developers. Nothing else.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

So, nothing about all of the people living there, willing to pay the going rate?


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

Why would a developer go out of their way to make a boring apartment complex that would be harder to fill with tenants but easier for tenants to study? If students want good grades, that's their responsibility to stay on top of it, not the developers to eliminate distractions/temptations from their building. Is it all about greed and profit for those bar/restaurant owners downtown that have sales/specials/fun stuff during the semester distracting the students and tempting them to have fun instead of study? UM Football games? I suppose it is all about greed and profit in all these situations, but what's wrong with greed and profit if it gives the customer what they want? I fail to see the evil.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

By asking the question, you've answered the question.