Every year, thousands of students venture off campus and sign leases with one of the many landlords that own the houses Penn students rent off campus.
With such an array of leasing companies to choose from and the recent uptick of construction around campus, it can be easy to lose track of exactly who owns what in University City — and just how large a role Penn plays in determining that ownership.
The largest and most prominent off-campus landlord is Campus Apartments, which was founded in 1958 to serve Penn students. Campus Apartments is now a national company that manages over $2 billion in assets, according to a Sept. 18 release.
The company currently owns over 150 properties in University City, approximately 60 to 70 percent of which are occupied by Penn undergraduate students, Chief Executive Office David Adelman estimated in November 2017.
Campus Apartments notably holds Pine Arms Associates on 40th Street between Delancey and Pine streets. It also owns The Simon at Founders Row, the company's first luxury apartment complex in Philadelphia, which opened this year on 41st and Sansom streets.
Campus Apartments was also one of the original founders of "Beige Block," a popular student housing area between Spruce, Locust, 41st, and 40th streets.
In 2003, the company launched a partnership with Penn. In the 16 years since, Campus Apartments has worked on several projects near campus — including the development and ownership of the 136-unit Homewood Suites by Hilton, on Walnut and 41st streets and the adaption of a Penn office building into condominiums.
Campus Apartments also manages Greek Housing, dealing with move-in, keys, damage and repairs, and trash collection. After move-out inspections, Campus Apartment assesses Greek houses for damage and files any necessary damage costs to bedrooms and the common areas. These costs are subsequently removed from the original damage security deposit, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life's website stated.
In recent years, Campus Apartments was not able to lease all the properties they manage, and Campus Apartments Regional Property Manager Jason Cohen said the company had approximately 200 empty units by mid-March in 2012.
University City Associates is completely owned by Penn and owns about 75 properties off campus. While these off-campus properties are owned by UCA, they have been managed by Campus Apartments since a 2002 agreement.
UCA's holdings include Astor Apartments on Sansom and 39th streets and Chestnut Arms on Chestnut and 40th streets.
UCA and Campus Apartments have faced student pushback for poor quality housing. In December 2013, six students filed a lawsuit against the Trustees of the University Pennsylvania, Inc. for $39,645 in damages for claims of "utterly reprehensible [housing] conditions" in the 2011-2012 academic year. Their landlord was UCA, and the property was managed by Campus Apartments.
Penn is further tied to the local real estate market through its alumni. 1964 College graduate and former University Trustee Michael Karp is the founder of University City Housing, which owns and manages more than 80 off-campus locations. As of 2014, Karp accounted for approximately 20 percent of off-campus housing.
Students have previously complained that the management at UCH is poor, with students in 2006 reporting that UCH failed to fix a gas leak leaving the students without heat while other students reported having a sewage leak in their basement.
Another company in the Penn area is University Reality, which owns six apartment building complexes near Penn. Two buildings were scheduled to be completed in spring 2018, but still are listed as in construction on its website.
In fall 2017, Penn students staying in the University Reality's 4046 Chestnut St. building were shuttled to hotels and to other buildings after the renovation on the complex was delayed for months.
There are several other landlords in the area, including the Post Brothers, a housing company founded by Drexel graduates Matthew and Michael Pestronk. The company owns properties throughout Philadelphia valued at over $1.4 billion.
The company's University City holdings include Hamilton Court, the building located on 39th and Chestnut streets which recently underwent a two-year multi-million dollar renovation. HamCo will add a karaoke speakeasy bar, a Halal Guys restaurant, and a $7-8 million "amenity building" with a rooftop pool, hot tub, and gym. During the construction, residents complained of increases in rent, slow renovations, and a four-day period at the start of this school year without hot water.
Elsewhere in University City, several apartment complexes have ties to Penn, as well. The University aided in construction of the privately owned and managed Radian apartment complex, which opened in 2008 and was intended to house Penn students who desired an off-campus location with community and lounge spaces.
Penn also promoted the opening of luxury complex Domus Apartments, a $71-million property located on 34th and Chestnut streets that opened in 2007. With higher rent costs than the surrounding areas, Domus was originally marketed toward young, working professionals in Center City, but has since become a popular spot for undergraduates.
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