More Boomers and Fewer Students on Campus

BoomersRetired boomers looking for a new way to retire may be just the answer for schools facing lower enrollments because of shrinking student loan options, says The Wall Street Journal’s recent article “Seniors Want to Go Back to Class. Universities Want to Sell Them Real Estate.” Many are building or planning senior living facilities to cater to boomers who see retirement at college as a stimulating alternative to more traditional activities.

Land is one of most colleges’ greatest assets. Many have already profited by developing hotels and high-end student housing. Senior housing now seems to be the next step. Lasell University, just west of Boston, built one of the first on-campus senior communities 20 years ago. Members are required to take a course load of 450 hours or activities each year. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Oberlin College in Ohio have created programs as well.

It makes sense for the schools, who are seeing the number of high-school students going to college decreasing, while retiree numbers climb.

The University of Central Florida is planning a community named Legacy Pointe, which will have almost 300 retirement homes. Located off of the main campus, it will offer easy transportation and bring in medical students for research and rotations.

State University of New York at Purchase expects to start construction on a 40-acre campus senior living development with 220 homes priced at up to $1.9 million for a two-bedroom villa, in addition to monthly charges ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Most of the original investment will be refunded when residents leave, similar to other senior living residences. A quarter of the units are already in contract, and the university must reach 70% before construction begins.

The piece of land for the campus represents a unique opportunity for the project developer, as there were few sites in the area, located less than 20 miles north of New York City in Westchester County, big enough for a senior living community.

While there may be an emerging glut of senior housing as more retirees decide to try to stay at home longer, this type of specialized retirement community is still in high demand. The interest in life-long learning and living on or close to a vibrant academic community is attractive to a generation of over-achievers.

In Tempe, the community at Arizona State University is situated in a high-rise project on the downtown campus, known as Mirabelle. Most of its 252 units have been sold, ranging from $380,000 to $1 million. The development opens in the fall of 2020.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 19, 2019) “Seniors Want to Go Back to Class. Universities Want to Sell Them Real Estate.”

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