AUSTIN (KXAN) - The loft condo lifestyle has reached West Campus as developers build multistory buildings, offering premium amenities to a student market that appears willing to pay up.
For students and other renters who can pay top dollar, newly finished apartments such as those at 2400 Nueces are furnished with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, taking the college experience to an entire new level just a couple blocks from the prestigious UT campus.
That prestige and the availability of a central location were the reasons EdR Collegiate Housing of Memphis, Tenn., who built 2400 Nueces, were drawn to Austin. The company provides student lodgings around the country.
"The best place to be is on, or on the edge of campus," said EdR's Josh Wilson. "That's where students want to live. They want to be able to walk out of their unit, go downstairs walk right onto campus. It's the best of both worlds for us."
And there appear to be renters who will pay nearly $1,000 a month for a studio apartment where amenities include a posh outdoor pool and air conditioned workout area complete with exercise machines. Wilson said the new building on Nueces St. is nearly leased out.
Some critics assert shiny new condo-style buildings like 2400 Nueces push out more affordable student housing in Central Austin. But Attorney Chris Bradford who studies land use issues said building up actually diversifies the housing stock.
"The new housing tends to be very expensive. But I bet if you look at the price of the old housing, it's a lot cheaper than it would have been otherwise," he said, adding when students depart older areas along East Riverside and Montopolis drives, it opens apartments for Austinites seeking affordable housing.
So how did we get here?
Nearly a decade ago, Austin City Council approved a University Neighborhood Overlay District. It allowed developers a chance to build up in some locations near campus, gradually sloping building heights down, closer to Guadalupe Steet. In the the case of 2400 Nueces, the 304-unit tower rises 16 floors as a way to squeeze in more students per square mile.
By this fall, 3,000 student 'beds' will be built either privately or in public-private partnerships, centralizing more of the campus population than ever in towers such as, Callaway House Austin and 21 Pearl .
In the next few years, more new high rises are planned to pop up all around the burnt orange rooftops of campus itself.
"It's the logical place to put student housing," said Bradford who writes a land use and zoning issues blog called austincontrarian.com . "They should keep building it until they don't think they need it anymore. They obviously don't think they've hit that point yet. Because they keep putting out new projects."
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