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New GSU dorm affects apartment market
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     Every year for the last several years, it seems as if there has been a seismic shift in student housing at Georgia Southern. Either a new apartment complex or two came on line for Fall semester or new dorms were opened.
      With each new addition, the bar seems to be raised, and this year is no exception. Georgia Southern University is in the final stages of completing its newest dorm complex, Centennial Place, located in the heart of the university's campus on Georgia Avenue.
      Slated to house 1,001 students, Centennial Place is the cornerstone in the university's new requirement that first-time/full-time freshmen live on campus in university housing. Even though there are some exceptions to the new rule, the vast majority of incoming freshmen will be living in student housing.
      How has this affected local rental property owners? According to Alison Jordan, owner of Perimeter Properties, a property management company adjacent to the campus, things are beginning to change somewhat.
      "For the first time that I can ever remember, property managers are becoming much more flexible with their lease terms," she said. "We used to lease from August through July. Our lease calendar mirrored the schedule of the university. There really weren't very many exceptions."
      Jordan said her company isn't doing that as a 'hard and fast' rule anymore and the flexibility has resulted in an increase in leasing activity and signed leases.
      "Since we have become more flexible, we are leasing units at a slightly faster clip than we did last year at this time, however, there is one unknown," she said.
      Jordan said normally in the summertime, a number of units are leased to incoming freshmen. This year may be different.
      "We really just don't know what the summer traffic will be," she said. "With the new rule requiring freshmen to live on campus and The Islands development coming on board, we may not get as much business from them as we have gotten in the past. Everyone is just waiting to see."
      Jordan may be right as Centennial Place is going to have all of the bells and whistles with a retail component that is going to be very attractive to many students. According to Vickie Hawkins, director of student housing, retail shops within the complex will include an Einstein Bagels, Cold Stone Creamery, Optical Express, a print shop, and a convenience store called The Market.
      "In conjunction with the retail in Landrum and the Russell Student Union, there will be a retail corridor now that runs along Georgia Avenue," she said.
      Hawkins said a total of 4,400 students should be housed on campus this Fall - 2800 of them will be first-time/full-time freshmen.   Hawkins also referenced the university's strategic plan which calls for 30 to 40 percent of all university students to be living on campus.
      At some point, you have to think that there will be a major slowdown in private student housing development. With Georgia Southern building fabulous dorms right in the heart of campus, this could be the start.
      To learn more about Georgia Southern's new dorm complex, go to the following website, www.georgiasouthern.edu/centennialplace. Also, exemptions to the freshmen housing rule are listed on the university's Web site.