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Old 09-13-2005, 02:50 PM
hoosier hoosier is offline
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The competition: College living turns lavish

College living turns lavish

Today's off-campus student housing offers everything from tanning beds to concierge service.
By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published September 12, 2005

TAMPA - Taneica Phillips grabbed her shower door handle and turned around, eyes wide like saucers.

"Huge showers!" she said, showing off a glass-enclosed stall that looked like it would hold a compact car.

"It is a bit much," she said, grinning. "But I'm not complaining."

Phillips, a 22-year-old University of South Florida psychology major, lives in Avalon Heights, an off-campus student apartment complex across from USF's Tampa campus.

Forget about hot plates and pizza-box furniture. Avalon, and complexes like it, offer a new take on the college experience.

Fully furnished apartments with comforts like flat-screen televisions, hot tubs and tanning beds have become the status quo.

Phillips shares her suite at Avalon Heights with two other women. She has a minifridge, a microwave and a sink next to her bed, plus the full-sized kitchen she shares with her roommates.

The lifestyle holds at Campus Lodge, a sprawling, 46-acre student complex on Livingston Avenue that looks like a Walt Disney resort. Apartment suites are called "bungalows." The leasing office has a large antler chandelier, a stone fireplace, cozy leather furniture and a view of a sparkling pool.

"It is more resort living than it is college dorm living," said Reno Satterfield, regional property manager for Campus Lodge, which has five other locations.

Resident Katie Bigham, a 21-year-old psychology major who works in Campus Lodge's front office, has tried both living styles.

"I lived on campus my first year, and it's a big step up," she said. "We have parents come in here all the time who are like, "Wow, if we had this when we were growing up..."'

One issue of The Oracle , USF's student newspaper, had 11 advertisements for luxury apartments. It's not just Tampa, student housing is big business all over the country.

College Park, a company that manages two complexes around USF, manages properties in 26 states. Texas-based American Campus Communities has been involved in developing 90 complexes, and Allen & O'Hara Education Services has properties in 35 U.S. cities. Many student housing companies are publicly traded on the stock market.

On-campus housing also has crept up in quality, said Tom Kane, director of residence services at USF. Kane said USF has accommodations where 30 students share one bathroom, but also four-bedroom, living room and kitchen units.

Kane questions whether big-ticket amenities help or hurt students.

"When you go to college, the No. 1 thing you should be focused on is learning, so I'll ask the question, "Do you even need cable television?"' he said.

The answer, it seems, is yes.

"Our students in the residence halls have asked for seven HBO channels next year," Kane said.

If students want the best, they also want the simplest means to get it. Most apartments offer individual leases that pay for a student's room, a shared common area and utilities.

Rent at Boardwalk at Morris Bridge, three minutes from USF, is $490 per roommate a month, and includes water, sewer, electric, phone, Internet and digital cable. Other perks include a computer lab with free printing, a game room with X-box and PlayStation 2, a movie theater, a high-tech tanning capsule, a party-sized whirlpool, concierge service and a gym with a personal trainer.

Rent at Campus Lodge ranges from $449 to $559 per person for two-, three- and four-bedroom units, and includes all utilities except for a phone line.

Bigham said the individual-lease system makes college life a little easier.

"You don't have to worry about whether your roommates are paying," she said. "If they don't pay their rent, our rent doesn't go up or down or anything. We don't have to make up for them."

The demand for newer, bigger and better has even spread to a private dormitory that has towered across from USF since the 1960s.

Known for years as Fontana Hall, the dorm is now called The Edge at 42nd Street. Since developer Steve Walsh of Broad Street Partners bought the property almost two years ago, he has been busy giving the dorm a facelift.

By fall of 2007, the Edge will have a new eight-story tower, 400 more beds, a five-level parking garage, new paint, interiors, gym equipment, computers, a pool deck and flat-screen televisions in common areas.

Walsh doesn't foresee the market slowing in this area.

"The two major campuses where you can have growth anymore are (the University of Central Florida) in Orlando and USF in Tampa," Walsh said. "They both have some land left to expand. We expect the growth at USF to continue as the state grows."

Taneica Phillips said her motivation for choosing Avalon Heights was privacy. She likes having her own bedroom and bathroom, and the walk-in closet and huge shower are a plus.

Phillips didn't move into Avalon without some stern words from her mother.

"The first thing she said to me was, "You'd better keep this place looking nice and neat, because you're living much better than we are back home."'
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