New high-end housing for Philly students

You won't find hot plates and mini-fridges in these kitchens.
You won’t find hot plates and mini-fridges in these kitchens.

Center City condo dwellers have learned to expect stainless steel this and granite that. Even renters in the surrounding neighborhoods know shiny hardwood floors and double-insulation windows are nothing to write home about. And now, students, upscale amenities can be yours as well.

After taking a look at the off-campus options available near Philly’s major universities four years ago, Todd Potter saw an opportunity. He founded University Realty, specializing in providing student housing that’s a leap up from the dorms you remember.

University Realty started with the Temple area and is now focusing on Drexel, which designated the buildings near its campus “university approved housing” — meaning sophomores and up can live in them. The company’s newest property, located at 31st and Hamilton, will be ready for move in March 1.

The building, which Potter says is getting the finishing touches, will include 21 units, all with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

“We developed it all from the ground up,” says Potter. “We use state-of-the-art appliances, hardwood floors throughout the common areas, flat-screen TVs, alarm systems and front door monitors, and a shuttle service that takes students back and forth to campus every 45 minutes.”

Two other, similar buildings are currently in the works, at 34th and Spring Garden and 38th and Spring Garden. The latter will also feature a gym and a study room. “We surveyed students to see what’s important to them. A gym and study area were number one and two on their list,” Potter says, “followed by a shuttle —everyone wants that.”

By keeping University Realty buildings under five stories high, Potter can keep rent around $700 a month per student. “In Philadelphia,” he says, “anything you build over four stories needs to be done in steel. As soon as you get into the cost of steel, you need to pass that on to the people you rent to,” he says, pointing to the high-rise dormitory towers that Drexel offers, which start around $1,000 a month per student, as examples.

Potter, a board member at the Drexel Area Property Association, also says he keeps an eye on how students blend into the neighborhood and mix with long-time residents when new housing goes up. “Whenever you have old and new mix together there will be issues, but we believe in having a code of conduct for every tenant,” he says. “We don’t put up with any shenanigans.”


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