A Differentiated Approach to Student Housing Development


​For more than 20 years, our team members have refined their residential expertise to become a best-in-class developer of luxury student housing. Focused intently on designing, building and developing amenity-rich buildings in prime locations, our integrated team of in-house experts has a proven track record of delivering high quality projects – both on- and off-campus.

In strategic markets across the country, we have amassed an impressive portfolio of successful student housing developments. That being said, there are several notable factors that differentiate us within this development sector.

Integrated Design-Build Approach

Our integrated design-build approach allows us to maximize project quality, scope and value within pre-determined budget parameters. With in-house design, construction and development services, we greatly streamline the development process and ensure seamless communication through a single point of responsibility from inception to completion.

This uniquely integrated approach – Opus DB3™ – is being implemented with great success at Iowa State University (ISU) as we deliver a new residence hall. Early in the journey, we submitted a design concept that exceeded ISU’s requirements with a guaranteed maximum price $1.1 million below other bidders and under their maximum project budget. And due to the efficiencies of our integrated team of in-house resources, we are able to deliver this project on a tight timeline.


We are well capitalized. Because of this we can take the financial uncertainty out of the development process by utilizing various creative capital funding structures, including a number of strategic financial student housing partnerships. Flexible capital allows us to secure desirable sites quickly and efficiently. Additionally, our in-house capital markets team actively mitigates capital risk factors by reducing the time it takes to complete complicated transactions, adding efficiency and certainty of execution. Simply put, we deliver financial stability to the student housing development process.

When we built ArborBLU in Ann Arbor, Mich., we developed the property on book with no financial partner. We were able to do so because of our access to capital and ability to structure the funding. Our ability to deploy capital to a specific project is made capable by long-term relationships with various banks and other financing organizations.

Collaborative Process: Students & the Community

To ensure success early in the site selection process, we collaborate with the most critical stake holders: students and the local community. As each community provides a unique history and development strategy, we take a grassroots approach to understanding and integrating our proposed development into the specific desires and needs of the community. We meet face-to-face with students to better understand their preferences for everything from location to amenities. We are also sensitive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood, working closely with community leaders to ensure projects fit their culture and vision for the future.

From 2012 to 2014, we developed three student housing properties at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. As we worked with diverse community groups, including long-time residents, students and city and university officials, we refined our approach to student housing.

We’ve since taken this experience and scaled it at different universities, developing properties at Marquette University in Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the University of Missouri in Columbia and Iowa State University in Ames. From project to project, we apply our experiences to deliver the best project that is a reflection of the location’s unique attributes.

Each student housing development also needs to respond to a varied demographic. It’s not just about the students and the surrounding community. Often, the eventual buyers are the students’ parents. Typically, the parent’s first concern is security, so that is a critical aspect. We work hard to ensure controlled access and that we have multiple cameras installed throughout the project. Our student’s first concern is typically community, so we provide spaces that are flexible and collaborative, such as study and multimedia spaces. This is often the first “home away from home” for these students, so it’s important to create a warm and welcoming facility. 

Creative & Flexible Solutions

As our desired development site location is truly pedestrian to campus, we often get involved with complicated edge of campus site locations.  With that, we encounter many complicated site challenges including land size constraints, zoning and code complexities, parking solutions, specific community demands, etc.  Our team uses our creativity, experience and expertise in the student space to invent custom site solutions that are unique and practical.

In Ann Arbor for example, we designed and constructed ArborBLU, a highly-complex 13-story development built over a popular restaurant, Pizza House, while the restaurant remained operational. Our team of developers, structural engineers and project managers worked closely with the City of Ann Arbor and the restaurant owner to fulfill our vision of delivering the highest standard of student housing in the market.  

Dedicated Team of Student Housing Developers

We maintain a team of dedicated professionals committed to our student housing development pursuits. The team’s main focus is the pursuit, sourcing and seamless execution of student housing transactions. They are uniquely qualified as experts in the student space. As a multi-market, multi-product developer, we leverages these unique skill sets and product expertise to ensure that each development is completed to the same level of care and standardization that people have come to expect in an Opus development.

This team has applied our considerable expertise learned from other sectors, including market rate apartments, to the student housing space. “In an effort to differentiate ourselves for the very competitive Student Housing product, we rely heavily on lessons learned in our market-rate projects,” said Jennifer Koehler, vice president, interior design for Opus AE Group, L.L.C. “As with market rate, our student housing is all about better amenities, such as gaming (pool and shuffleboard), clubrooms with space for group events and outdoor spaces for relaxation. We see a trend toward more and varied study spaces and better access to high speed wifi.”

In all, our expertise has contributed to the success of many students and the vitality of housing near many nationally recognized universities. With a wealth of knowledge in residential development and deep experience developing, designing and building, our influence in the collegiate market continues to expand nationwide.