Step inside the Domain at Columbia, near the University of Missouri campus, and you might think you’re on a luxury cruise ship or at a five-star hotel. Furnished units have flat-screen TVs with DVRs, granite kitchen countertops, entertainment centers, and stainless-steel appliances. Outside is a courtyard with a swimming pool that includes swim-up dining areas and a basketball hoop, and landlubbers can enjoy oversize hammocks hanging beneath a cedar trellis draped with soft white lights or play a game of sand volleyball on the adjacent, pro-regulation court. There’s also a full-swing golf simulator, a 24-hour fitness center, stand-up tanning booths, a massive theater with cushioned seats, grilling stations, a business center, a swanky café, a rooftop sundeck, and a 10-person fire pit. But, the Domain at Columbia isn’t a vacation resort; it’s a student-housing complex, and it represents both the latest trends in collegiate-community design and the key strategies of its developer, Asset Campus Housing.
Few know those strategies better than Mark Lindley, Asset Campus Housing’s senior vice president of construction, who’s spent his entire life building multifamily apartments and dorms. After learning in his father’s firm, he left to work for Hanover Company and Nash Phillips / Copus Homes, where he managed all aspects of large multifamily, office, and retail projects before coming to Asset Campus Housing in 2003. Today, his company is the largest independently owned student-housing manager and developer in the nation, with more than 65,000 beds across the country. “We create a luxury student-housing project at a comparable market rate,” Lindley says. “It helps students transition from home to college, and mom and dad want comfortable and safe places where their kids can learn.”
Indeed, safety is paramount. Asset Campus Housing places its own staff members at each of its locations, and managers program events and entertainment on-site while shuttle busses make regular trips to and from adjacent campuses. Close proximity to campuses is another important selling point for Asset Campus Housing, and Lindley works with his counterparts in the development division to monitor hot and emerging markets. “We buy land as close to a university as possible and either design a project specific to that location or use one of our prototypes,” he says.
Urban sites often require unique custom designs, but in rural settings, Asset Campus Housing often turns to its popular garden-style, three-story building and clubhouse community. Floor plans for such a community include one-, two-, and four-bedroom units, with bed-to-bath parity and shared living and kitchen areas. All bedrooms have solid doors with deadbolts.
The large clubhouses and loaded amenity packages available at such locations are in high demand, but Lindley says students are looking to supplement their academic experience, too. “We are always building bigger and better business centers and more study space because students are more collaborative now,” he says. “We also work hard to make sure all of our properties have the right Internet infrastructure in place to support their needs.”
The Domain at Columbia, a 650-bed complex near the University of Missouri that opened in August 2013, illustrates just what Asset Campus Housing can accomplish. Students there can choose between furnished one-, two-, or four-bedroom apartments or two-story townhomes close to Mizzou’s historic campus. The location adheres to Asset Campus Housing’s garden-style prototype and includes an impressive pool—at 100,000 gallons, it’s Columbia’s largest—and inside is a 30-seat movie theater with stadium seating, a large projection screen, and surround sound. Residents can connect their laptops to an Apple TV unit and stream movies off of Netflix or other content providers.
In 2011, Asset Campus Housing started work on 25Twenty in Lubbock, Texas, just steps away from Jones Stadium, near Texas Tech University, South Plains College, and Lubbock Christian University. Lubbock’s more urban setting forced Lindley and his partners to find an alternative to their prototypes, and after identifying an ideal site, they struck a deal with the neighboring landowner, convincing that owner to add floors to a proposed parking garage. Asset Campus Housing then built the garage using company consultants, leased several floors of parking for itself, and built a four-story courtyard building next door with a connecting sky bridge. The building’s distinctive geometry became one of its biggest advantages; the design team turned corner spaces into large four-bedroom units, which were the first to go when 25Twenty opened in 2012.
Now, Lindley and Asset Campus Housing are looking to replicate the success of the Domain at Columbia and 25Twenty across the nation. To do so, they’re soliciting feedback from current tenants. “We buy some pizzas and hold town hall meetings in our buildings after the students have moved in,” Lindley says. “We find out what works and what doesn’t, and we constantly improve our product.” By doing so, his company is building some of the best upscale student housing around.