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This summer, Devonshire Group and Oxbow Development will begin construction of Main Street Commons, a 184-bed mixed-use complex at the northwest corner of Main and Bourland in Peoria. This represents phase one of a two-phase project; the proposed second phase consists of an additional 104 beds and is scheduled to begin construction in 2011. The student housing project will offer amenities such as a multi-layered security system, concierge service, 8,000 square feet of retail lease space, a swimming pool, tanning facilities and a 24-hour fitness center. Enhancing the options available to Bradley University students, Main Street Commons will open in late summer 2011 with availability for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Based in the Quad Cities, Oxbow Development has extensive experience with similar projects, having developed several student-focused living communities on and near campuses throughout the Midwest. The Champaign-based Devonshire Group is providing real estate development services, including civil, mechanical, electrical, structural and environmental engineering; title services; commercial/residential brokerages; and architectural services. Devonshire’s expertise and services, along with Oxbow’s experience with student housing, will combine to offer an upscale option for Bradley University students.

As Bradley continues to experience strong enrollments, Main Street Commons will allow the university to offer today’s students the modern, attractive, upscale housing and amenities they expect. “Universities that continually enroll and appreciate outstanding students and that offer a complete, enriched educational experience understand the importance of supporting quality-of-life options for students,” says Bradley University President Joanne Glasser. “Bradley is delighted with the Main Street Commons project and its outstanding features. We know our students, faculty and staff will find it a welcome addition to the area.”

Area residents are also excited. “The new apartments will bring more people to our neighborhood, making the area more vibrant,” says neighborhood resident Golda Ewalt. “More people may attract more business, such as restaurants. This is exactly the movement I am looking forward to seeing. The new development makes this a better place to live.”

iBi spoke with Devonshire Group’s Thomas Harrington III about the project.

What is the most significant trend in the student housing industry?
Today’s students are expecting more quality and amenities than in the past.

What are the top requirements to keep your student housing project considered first-class?
Keeping first-class management in place is essential, along with a full amenity package and updated technology.

What is the developer’s history/experience with student housing?
Between the Devonshire Group and Oxbow Development, there are 50 years of multi-family development and management experience. The groups have collectively been involved in the development and management of around 4,000 bedrooms in student housing facilities over the last 15 years.

What is the difference between housing for today’s students versus what their parents experienced?
The parents of today’s students were looking for a very standard unit that allowed them a place to sleep and study. Today’s students are looking for a place with all the comforts of home, entertainment and a comfortable gathering space. In many cases, these comforts have a cost, and the parents who often pay the rent are willing to pay a higher rent to provide a more enjoyable college experience for their children.

How is the student housing market trending and what is the forecast for the future?

National trends project college and university enrollments to increase three to five percent over the next 10 years. To stay competitive and keep occupancy levels high, developers are adding many new amenities to their facilities to attract students.

How important is a retail component to projects such as Main Street Commons?
The retail component of the Main Street Commons development makes the project more unique, as it adds value by increasing activity and foot traffic in the area while creating attractive space for retailers. The retail space is also an added amenity to the students as it will allow them to get many of the goods and services in the convenience of their own facility.

What distinguishes Main Street Commons from alternative private student housing facilities available to students?

Main Street Commons will be the newest facility offering the most up-to-date technology, enclosed parking, swimming pool, tanning/workout facilities and entertainment lounge. These amenities, first class-management and a great location will provide Bradley students with their first resort-style student housing facility, bringing a much-needed asset to a progressing and already outstanding university. iBi

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