Thinking ahead

Apartments on Ezra, Bricker and Hickory were purchased by the university in spring 2012 (Photo by: Heather Davidson)
Apartments on Ezra, Bricker and Hickory were purchased by the university in spring 2012 (Photo by: Heather Davidson)

In the spring of 2012, Wilfrid Laurier University purchased 12 apartment buildings on Bricker, Hickory and Ezra for $58.9 million. Following the purchases, Laurier is still committed to retaining the buildings as student housing, while continuing to view the buildings as a way to further expand the physical space of the institution.

“795 beds were purchased across 12 buildings that are all leased to upper year students,” reported Dan Dawson, assistant vice president of student services.

“The deal was closed back in the spring of 2012, with possession of the buildings taking place in late March.”

The reason behind the purchases relates to Laurier being landlocked.

“The university has been exploring for many years strategic properties for as much land-banking. It is no secret that the core block of land the Waterloo campus occupies does not leave an opportunity for future expansion,” said Dawson.

Dawson further stated that the properties were obtained after they had been publicly put up for sale.

“When these blocks of land went up for sale, the university put resource people on top of obtaining the land.”

Speaking about the purchase of the buildings itself, James Butler, the vice president of finance and administration, said the buildings were “100 per cent financed.”

“The properties are 100 per cent financed, there is no university money in it.”

Speaking on the more technical side of the purchase, Butler said the university is locked into the buildings based on a 30-year mortgage at 3 per cent interest.

“It is all the bank’s money. They gave us the money to make an investment and we keep the profits. It’s a great deal for the university.”

Butler also stated that the existing mortgages on the properties were paid off.

“All the buildings had mortgages on them. Laurier had a consultant recommend to the board we finance the buildings. We had a broad financing requirement anyways, so we included that with the broader financing scheme,” explained Butler.

Looking at the current situation of the buildings, Dawson said the university has hired a third party organization to manage the buildings on Laurier’s behalf.

“We made a strategic decision to hire a property management company to manage those properties on our behalf.”

Dawson believes they are doing very well.

“At the current moment, all of the buildings are 100 per cent occupied. There has been a high demand from students to live there,” Dawson said.

Looking at future plans for the properties, Dawson pointed out that it comes down to what the demand for them is.

“Laurier is aggressively trying to ensure these properties stay competitive, as far as look and appeal. We want them to remain student housing. Most of these buildings are only five or ten years old, so they are fairly new and of good quality.”

The pay off for Laurier having these properties, said Dawson, is that it goes back to students who live there and the university itself.

“For students, they can rest easy that the university is paying attention to detail for life-safety procedures, knowing that students are working with landlords that are reputable and take student concerns seriously. From the university’s perspective, we are generating revenue to reinvest back into the buildings to keep the standards high.”

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