American Campus Communities, the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the U.S., was recognized Tuesday, June 28 with the Innovation Project Award honoring its “Transformational Mixed-Use Developments at Drexel University” at the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships’ P3Connect 2016 event in Chicago.
The ACC-Drexel University partnership, including Chestnut Square, University Crossings, and The Summit at University City, has transformed the Drexel campus into a vibrant hub of activity with mixed-use retail, dining, academic offices and high-quality student housing. The five-year, multi-project, public-private partnership has delivered more than 1.4 million square feet of development, nearly 3,200 residential beds and more than 60,000 square feet of attractive urban retail space.
The partnership was recently recognized with an additional award from the Urban Land Institute of Philadelphia honoring The Summit at University City with one of its eight Willard G. “Bill” Rouse III Awards for Excellence. The awards were scored by 15 jury members from around the nation on use of best practices; quality planning and design; elements that build healthy places; environmental sustainability and energy reduction; economic success and market acceptance.
“When universities are contemplating these kinds of public-private partnerships, they don’t have to be arms-length relationships that are driven by architects and lawyers,” said John Fry, President of Drexel University. “They can be profoundly strategic relationships where you have a deep, trusting bond with your partner, and I’ve found that at ACC.”
The partnership began in December 2010 when Drexel selected ACC to develop a challenging project along the highly trafficked Chestnut Street central to campus. Today, Chestnut Square comprises two eight-story buildings with an attached 19-story high-rise residential tower featuring 861 on-campus beds—the building gives a new front to adjacent 1960s-era buildings, while restoring the urban vitality with an activated streetscape along Chestnut Street.
The second phase of the partnership included the redevelopment and complete refurbishment of a 1920s-era high-rise office building on the Drexel campus into 1,016 beds of modern student housing. A third phase of the partnership culminated in Fall 2015 with the opening of The Summit at University City which delivered 1,315 beds of modern student housing and amenities in an aesthetically striking 24-story apartment high-rise that gracefully transitions to five-story residential height toward the adjacent neighborhood. All project funding—a total investment of approximately $345 million—has come exclusively from the American Campus Equity (ACE®) structure, allowing an expedited development timeline, while preserving the University’s balance sheet and credit capacity for core academic pursuits.
“American Campus is very proud of our partnership with Drexel,” said Jamie Wilhelm, Executive Vice President, Public-Private Partnerships at ACC. “Through our $345 million investment, Drexel was able to expand its housing capacity by almost 80 percent, and the city was able to return neighborhoods that had become burdened by student renters back to their original intended use.”
The 2016 National Public-Private Partnership Awards recognize projects and visionary leaders for achievement in public-private partnerships, and the Innovation Award honors new and innovative projects that show originality and demonstrate a significant new advance in the field of P3s through development and application of new concepts or methodology.
The ACC-Drexel partnership has enabled the achievement of President Fry’s vision for transforming Drexel’s student housing portfolio while preserving the university’s debt capacity for academic and research purposes—and added to ACC’s $10.7 billion of student housing transactions. The partnership has helped revitalize the urban campus and provides a glimpse of the potential that such partnerships can play in replacing outdated infrastructure and reinvigorating communities.