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Miami’s new student housing is filling up. Out-of-towners still need digs

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Despite concerns about COVID-19, many students have returned to University of Miami, where classes are already underway, and Florida International University, where they resume next week. For new student housing projects, that’s good news; at both schools, occupancy is over 70%.

Near FIU, the 20-story One at University City, has filled 1,000 beds, or 80%, of its 1,244 total, according to Brian Pearl, principal and co-founder of the Brickell-based development firm Global City Development, one of two firms that developed the project.

University of Miami’s Lakeside Village filled 871 beds, or 76%, of the its total 1,150, said James Smart, the university’s associate vice president for student affairs and housing strategic initiatives. The 569,441-square-foot, $134 million project completed this summer comprises 25 seven-story buildings.

The high occupancy surprised Todd Rosenberg, co-founder of the Boca Raton-based Pebb Capital. “The demand we’re seeing is fueled by new demand of those that want to be in a warm climate, but offset by locals doing online classes. It’s not a total loss and it’s not a total gain [during the pandemic].”

The One leased all of its beds online, Pearl said. The majority of residents are full-time locals, many of them studying law or nursing — which requires being close to campus. International students are also moving in — from Europe, the Middle East and South America.

The One originally was planned to be Miami’s first students-only condo, with access to the FIU campus via a pedestrian bridge across Tamiami Trail to FIU’s campus. The 175-foot bridge collapsed during its installation in March 2018; six people died. The university said in May of this year that it was ready to restart the project.

The One was built using a $231 million bond providing $50 million for student scholarships over the next 40 years. By 2058, FIU will become the sole owner of the One.

At the One, some gym equipment has been closed to allow for social distancing, Pearl said; access on the pool deck also has been limited. Pearl hired a security guard to enforce social distancing on the pool deck after a resident posted a video on Twitter showing multiple students gathering by the pool in early August.

At UM’s Lakeside Village, most residents are from the northeast, Smart said.

“We have a lot of classes that can’t be taught online,” Smart said. “If you are going to have in-person classes, you have to have student housing, especially with over half of our student [undergraduate] population coming from out of state.”

The university converted its common rooms in all of its student housing, including Lakeside, into temporary classroom space to allow for at least six feet of distance between each classroom attendee. Still, at least four students in another dorm, Hecht, tested positive for COVID last week.

Despite the occupancy rates, Rosenberg said, few developers likely will pursue new student South Florida housing projects in the near future. “I expect a pause on new construction. There’s going to be a real question about how much of the student population is going to go online after all of this.”

Global City Development offers a case in point. Pearl said his team is pursuing a potential new development in partnership with FIU to provide teacher housing.