Jessica Hannah: Developing Student Living with a Passion for Design & Marketing

“I travel frequently to Opus offices across the country," said Jessica Hannah, Senior Manager of Real Estate Development. “It doesn't matter if I'm in Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, Kansas City or another location, Opus has a consistent culture of support and collaboration across the board. I feel like I'm walking into the same room no matter where I am."

Jessica joined our Student Living team in early 2022 and is responsible for the development and successful lease-up of student living buildings. She works closely with JV partners, construction and design teams, marketing firms and property management companies.

Prior to Opus, Jessica was in property management for nine years. She held leasing management positions at MHM Properties, American Campus Communities, Asset Living and Campus Apartments. An entrepreneur at heart, she was also an independent marketing consultant for several years serving a range of clients with everything from research and strategy to execution of promotions, branding, public relations and other marketing tactics.

Inherited Design Sense

Jessica's career was influenced by her grandfather Fletcher Hannah. Known as Paw Paw to the family, he had an eighth-grade education and was a self-taught, highly skilled carpenter in Nashville.

“Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money," Jessica said. “When I was in the first grade, I wanted this really cool doll house but knew it probably cost too much. Paw Paw noticed. He was a loving man and surprised me with a custom-built dollhouse that was even better."  

“He was working on it in the garage and was trying to keep it a secret, but I snuck in there and saw it. I couldn't believe it – I was getting a dollhouse!"

To Jessica, it seemed bigger than life. It was four feet tall, had 10 bedrooms and was beautiful.

“Paw Paw said, 'you ruined the surprise Little Tick (that's what he called me), but this is even better because now you can help me design the interior.' He took me to a sample outlet that had hundreds of remnants. He let me pick out carpets, tiles, backsplashes and more for my dollhouse. It was my first introduction to design." 

The experience was a precursor to Jessica's success today.

Successfully Impacting & Delivering Unique Student Living Properties

“The biggest role I have at Opus right now is overseeing leasing and marketing strategies," Jessica said. “That includes ensuring our products appeal to students, so I get involved in researching and selecting design features for our buildings like finishes, fabrics and furniture. I really enjoy that creative element of my job."

She is also responsible for sourcing and creating leasing spaces, which are mock-ups of the building's interior for prospective residents. Similar in concept to model homes, the leasing spaces are used by property management companies to market and lease the buildings. Often set up in an existing retail space, they are functional well before the building's completion – usually about a year.

“In concept, it's similar to what we do as developers," she said. “Developers source good sites that fit a need, fill a gap and have a purpose. For this part of my job, I source ideal retail spaces near the project that reflect the neighborhood, meet certain standards and properly reflect the end product. It's almost like a mini development within the development."

On ARI on Fourth Apartments in Tucson, Ariz., delivering in summer 2024, she has worked with the design teams to influence the look, feel and function of the core amenities that provide the best value to the residents and played an integral role in selecting the best operator to manage lease up and operations of the building.

“Jessica came to us with a unique skillset given her background in leasing and marketing student living properties," said Ben Angelo, Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development. “She's leveraged that expertise into a forward-facing role at Opus. Our partners rely on her and trust her recommendations about leasing and marketing, as well as elements that impact leasing like interior design and furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) selections. Jessica adds tremendous value to Opus and the Student Living team."

Jessica's expertise and leadership has extended to Proxi Lawrence Student Living in Lawrence, Kan., where they have officially reached their goal of being 100% pre-leased for the fall 2023 move in, and other projects in the student living portfolio.

“Our clients appreciate the expertise I bring to the table with my operations knowledge and my dedication to set these projects apart through unique amenities and design concepts that are thoughtfully curated," Jessica said. “I speak up about areas that may not have always received attention at this level and by doing so the client realizes that our team has expertise that goes beyond the norm."

“Failing Forward"

When Jessica joined Opus, she didn't have the typical background of most developers. She didn't have a degree in real estate or architecture – she had a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University.

“It's purely passion that has gotten me to this point," she said. “And Opus has provided a really safe place to fail forward, as I like to say. When I first started here, it was intimidating to work on multimillion dollar projects. I was afraid to fail and make mistakes. But the environment at Opus is safe and accepting. I was given space to fail, learn from it and move on."  

Jessica's decision to join Opus was further affirmed six months after joining the company when tragedy struck her family.

“My younger sister passed away unexpectedly leaving behind three young children," she said. “My boss, Ben Angelo, immediately took over my project responsibilities and gave me all the time I needed to grieve and adjust to life without my sister. Members of the executive leadership reached out offering condolences and reiterated that I should take all the time I needed and that my work would be handled. Because of the incredible people, culture and focus on family at Opus, I was able to properly mourn and heal from a tragic loss without worrying about my career being on the line. I'm so incredibly grateful."

“I've never felt this way about a job before. Working at Opus is refreshing. I know I'm valued." 


In addition to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University, Jessica earned a Content Marketing Certification – Business Lead Source. She is a member of the YMCA Scholarship Committee and Young Professionals of Champaign-Urbana.

When Jessica isn't working, she enjoys spending time with her nine-year old daughter who has recently become obsessed with acting and singing. Jessica also loves to travel and research design trends. “My Pinterest page probably has enough ideas for the next eight developments," she said. 


Our associates are talented, dedicated and knowledgeable. They streamline complex projects and always deliver value to clients. Read more profiles of our team.​