17-story apartment tower rising near UT campus


The project will have 166 units and 464 beds.

Strong demand is fueling high rents and occupancies in West Campus.

Work is under way on a $60 million, 17-story student housing tower on Rio Grande Street near the University of Texas campus, the latest in a series of residential projects being built or planned in the area.

The project, called Aspen West Campus, is going up at 1909 Rio Grande St. The developer is Aspen Heights Partners, an Austin-based firm, teaming with Grand China Overseas Investment Management Ltd.

The tower will have 166 units and 464 beds, and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018.

It is the first student housing project for Aspen Heights in its hometown. The company has built two other Austin apartment projects this year — Rise and Concord – but those properties are not geared towards students.

Concord, in South Austin, has 346 units. Rise, a 22-story building at West Eighth and Nueces streets, will bring 198 units to market.

“As we develop our first student housing high-rise in our own backyard, our team feels particularly proud of this project that will not only bring value to one of Austin’s most desirable neighborhoods, but serve the housing needs of students attending UT,” Ryan Fetgatter, vice president of development for Aspen Heights, said in a written statement. “Our partnership with China Grand Fund also speaks to the strength of this project given their successful track record of investments over the last five years.”

Grand China is a real estate private equity fund manager with about $1.2 billion in assets under management. It has funded the construction of 22 residential projects across the U.S. The Austin project is its first investment in student housing.

“We are extremely excited to partner with a best-in-class developer at the start of our strategic move into the education space,” Laurie Mathers, head of acquisitions for Grand China Fund, said in a written statement.

Aspen West Campus is expected to cost more than $60 million, Fetgatter said.

Units will range from efficiencies to five-bedroom floorplans. The building will have an amenity deck on the sixth floor with a fitness center, game room, study lounge and pool.

Aspen Heights officials did not quote a figure for projected rents, but said rates will be competitive with other properties in the area.

The West Campus apartment market continues to see strong demand and high rent and occupancy levels, said Erin Roberts, a senior associate with Capitol Market Research, an Austin-based real estate consulting firm that tracks the numbers.

“Since 2009, the West Campus market area has shown astounding ability to absorb new units at constantly increasing prices,” Roberts said in an email. “Occupancy for student housing properties in the area has remained above 95 percent since 2009. Developers have responded by continually delivering new product, but at some point the land availability for higher-density development will become depleted. At that point, construction in the West Campus area will shift to other locations.”

In the past five years, West Campus has added 14 new projects totaling 1,842 units, according to Capitol Market Research.

In addition, the firm is showing 651 units in the development pipeline. Those are in three projects with 330 units that the city of Austin has approved, including Aspen West Campus, plus two projects with 321 units for which developers have submitted plans, Roberts said.

In addition to Aspen West Campus, Aspen Heights is a partner in The Independent, a 58-story high-rise under construction next to the Seaholm complex in downtown Austin that will be the city’s tallest building.

Founded in 2006, Aspen Heights has developed, marketed and managed 31 student housing projects in 26 markets nationwide, and will have another 2,426 beds in its portfolio by August 2017. The company’s pipeline includes projects both within and outside of the student housing sector.

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