Apartment leasing season is in full bloom as local landlords seek 100 percent occupancy for their properties. With more than 20 major apartment complexes providing in excess of 12,000 beds for student housing, it takes a veteran to remain calm in the fervor of renting to students for next fall.
Ray Hendley has been in the business of developing duplexes and condominiums in Statesboro since 1968, and he isn't surprised at the steady growth in housing that continues to amaze many local residents, and further, doesn't seem to be ruffled by it.
"Sometimes, it is hard for those of us that live here to see the potential," Hendley said. "Developers that build all over the country are very excited about Statesboro. That is why we continue to see large apartment complexes going up. When one of those comes on line, it does have an impact on every other property in the short term, but as enrollment continues to go up somewhat each year, we have been able to absorb that growth."
Hendley Properties alone has 697 "beds" available for rent. "Beds" is the term used to denote the number of occupants that can be housed, not necessarily the number of bedrooms themselves. The vast majority of that space is in Greenbriar, Hawthorne, and Planters Row - neighborhoods developed by Hendley.
"Students tastes have changed over the last few decades," he said. "If you are going to stay competitive and profitable then you have to meet those tastes. What we offer meets a certain demand."
Hendley said there are students that want a high density living situation like The Grove or Campus Crossing, and some want more space and easier access to their living quarters which is what Hendley builds.
"One isn't necessarily better than the other, it is just different," he said. "But, I will say this, I have learned over the years that it is better to keep your units current, and not allow the amenities and decor to become dated. Students want modern appliances, and the like. If they come in and see an old refrigerator and dated fixtures, they will just turn around and go somewhere else."
Recent developments are continuing to "up the ante" when it comes to giving students choices. Construction on the Forum apartment complex Highway 301 South is slated to begin this summer. Encompassing 39 acres, the 780-bed complex is scheduled to come on line in the fall of 2012.
Also, Georgia Southern University recently received approval from the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents to purchase Campus Club Apartments, a 984-bed housing community located next to the GSU's campus. The purchase is scheduled to be completed in the coming months, and it will bring the number of students in residential housing to 5,184 in fall 2012, according to Christian Flathman, Georgia Southern's director of marketing and communications.
Some credit part of Georgia Southern's boom to Hendley's vision for student housing.
"Ray's Greenbriar duplexes have always looked nice and well maintained since the day that they were built," said local businessman Russell Rosengart. "They are brick, and attractive, and I think give people a very good feeling about the quality of Georgia Southern and our community when they come to look at the university for their children. Coming in on Fair Road is so nice to look at, and that is in great part a testament to what Ray has built, and importantly, maintained."
With all but a few beds leased for the coming fall semester, Hendley is currently building three new duplexes on Gentilly Road to meet the demand.
"I just hate to turn anyone away," he said. "These units are right next to Gentilly Gardens and have a wonderful view of the pond. They are leased, and will be ready in just a few short weeks."