By Madeline Jackson
The landscape of downtown Athens has changed drastically over the past five years. Apartments such as The Mark, The Standard, Uncommon, 909 Broad and Georgia Heights have moved in with top-of-the-line amenities ranging from Bluetooth enabled shower speakers to infinity pools overlooking Sanford Stadium; all within walking distance from the University of Georgia campus.
“I believe that students have always wanted to live near downtown but there has been a real lack of supply,” says Dr. Richard Martin, a real estate professor at UGA. “What we have seen over the past few years is a correction in this lack of supply.”
High-end amenities and close proximity to campus comes with a hefty price tag. Rent in these apartments range from $636.00-$1,245.00 per person. With the price of tuition and overall cost of living added in, it begs the question of whether or not luxury apartments are worth the price.
The map shown above highlights the new luxury apartments and apartments with lower rent prices, but a greater distance to campus.
“For me, it’s all about the price,” says Casey Ciucci, a resident of The Woodlands. “I split the rent with my parents so I wanted to make sure I lived in a place I could afford.”
Despite some of the affordable apartments being built prior to 2010, they still offer a lot of the same amenities as the newer apartments. Every low-cost apartment on the map offers a swimming pool, an amenity Uncommon does not offer.
“Although we aren’t located downtown, I still feel like we keep up with the apartments with better locations since we do offer quality amenities at a low price,” says Ashley Morgan, the leasing manager at The Woodlands.
The high price of rent in the downtown apartments could potentially benefit those looking to live elsewhere.
“It is very possible that the downtown building boom could increase the number of affordable units in town,” says Dr. Martin.
The convenience of being steps away from UGA often outweighs the cost of rent.
“After living on Milledge Avenue last year and relying on an unreliable bus, having a timely way to campus was important,” says Cassidy Flood, a third-year UGA student and a resident of The Standard.
Real estate firms such as Landmark Properties have pounced on abandoned and unused lots to build high-rise, luxury apartments. Landmark currently owns and operates The Standard, 909 Broad and The Mark.
“I think it’s better for students to navigate downtown apartments that were specifically built for them, rather than living in houses previously owned by families,” says J. Wesley Rogers, the president and CEO of Landmark.
Not all residents have fallen for the hype of luxury living. Ian Ferguson, a third-year at UGA and former resident of 909 Broad doesn’t think the high cost of rent is worth it.
“You’re not really getting anything special opposed to the other complexes yet you’re paying quite a bit,” Ferguson says.
As of right now, Landmark does not have any current plans to build a new complex.
“Given the lack of availability of land, I don’t think you’re going to see more of these high-rises,” Rogers says.
With the number of UGA students staying at a constant rate, there has not been a high demand for more housing. However, Dr. Martin believes there has been a change in amenity demands from residents.
“The third source of new demand is a change in preferences for the type of housing,” says Dr. Martin. “This can be seen in the clear desire for more luxurious student housing.”
With more affordable options surrounding the perimeter of the UGA campus, the clear consensus of moving into pricier apartments is simply due to the location.
“My favorite thing is hands-down the location,” says Johnny Cohen, a third-year and resident of Uncommon. “It’s so convenient to go everywhere.”
Overall, every student has different preferences of what they look for in housing. Whether it be price, location or amenities, the city of Athens will continue to grow with every new class of students. Time will only tell if the investments in higher-end living will be worth it.