Community College of Philadelphia is preparing to enter negotiations with Radnor Property Group, a private developer, on a $130 million mixed-use facility that will include affordable student housing, market-rate apartments and retail stores on land owned by the college.
Radnor will assume all of the construction costs and will manage the property in this public-private partnership that aims to boost the local economy while supporting student recruitment and retention.
“This moves us to a new level of engagement with our community and involves us more directly in the life of the surrounding neighborhoods,” says college President Donald “Guy” Generals.
College leaders say the project will benefit students by giving them safe, affordable housing next to the Spring Garden Street campus. The facility will include up to 1,000 market-rate and student-housing units in all.
“Research clearly indicates that student housing improves success, retention, and graduation rates by increasing student engagement, improving the utilization of campus resources and expanding students’ connections to the college,” Generals says.
What’s more, providing housing will help the college draw students from outside the Philadelphia area — including internationally.
Looking to increase enrollment
To help the college attract some 300 international students over the next five years, Community College of Philadelphia has contracted with Washington, D.C.-based Quad Learning, which provides domestic and international marketing services for colleges.
“Student housing will enable us to expand our market reach regionally and internationally,” Generals says. “Philadelphia’s designation as a World Heritage City uniquely positions the college to attract international students seeking an American degree.” He called the effort to attract international students “a bold recruitment and marketing strategy that is essential for our long-term fiscal viability,” citing the college’s need to find additional revenue streams.
College leaders hope the move will help reverse a 15 percent decline in enrollment since its peak in 2009-10, when the Great Recession incentivized out-of-work adults to earn and update credentials.
By creating an option for student housing, Community College of Philadelphia joins a growing cadre of community colleges nationwide. “Between 2000 and 2010, 43 community colleges added new student housing,” Generals says.
Revitalizing the community
Recruiting and retaining more students isn’t the project’s only goal. The new property “will revitalize one of the only areas in our community that hasn’t been developed and is in need of serious repair,” Generals says.
The modern structure will have plenty of green space, including a rooftop deck with views of the Philadelphia skyline. The development will also include retail stores on the ground level and will create hundreds of jobs.
Community College of Philadelphia is still working out the details of its arrangement with Radnor Property Group, but the college will continue to own the land. Radnor will be responsible for the cost of development and ongoing management.