Monday, July 27, 2020

College Turns to Atlantic City Hotel for Student Housing in Pandemic

by Linda Moss Costar News
To get a sense of how the pandemic is changing student housing, look no further than Atlantic City, New Jersey, America's second-biggest gambling hot spot. 

Stockton University is planning to house some of its students in a hotel in the biggest U.S. gaming center outside Las Vegas this fall to comply with social-distancing mandates stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The move is an example of how property owners nationwide are seeing their prospects improve amid higher demand from universities for more housing.

The school, based in Galloway, New Jersey, said it's finalizing an agreement with the Showboat Atlantic City at 801 Boardwalk to use up to 400 rooms at the hospitality property for students during the coming fall and spring 2021 semesters. The university at one time owned the hotel when it first attempted to open a campus at the seaside gaming mecca.

“Stockton promises to provide housing to all students who request it,” the school's executive director of residential life, Steven Radwanski, said in a statement. “This agreement ensures that we will have sufficient housing based on current demand.”

The deal with Showboat will allow Stockton, which now operates a satellite campus in Atlantic City, to have additional housing available as the university implements state COVID-19 guidelines, which reduce the number of students permitted in existing on-campus student housing.

Stockton is the former owner of the 23-story Showboat. The university purchased the hotel for $18 million from Caesars in December 2014 with plans to develop it into a residential campus. But land-use restrictions placed on the property at different times by owners derailed those efforts, leading Stockton to sell the 1.73 million-square-foot facility, which includes two hotel towers, parking lots and garage, for $23 million in June 2016.

The influx of students will be a boost for the Showboat amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Hotels across the United States have taken a revenue hit because of the pandemic, with temporary closings and people not traveling. In the case of Atlantic City, its casinos only recently began to reopen with social-distancing measures in place.

Under the deal, Showboat will provide up to 300 single rooms and 100 double rooms for Stockton students. In addition, the hotel will also provide at least 250 dedicated parking spaces and students will get complimentary memberships to the fitness facility on site, as well as access to an entertainment lounge with billiards and pingpong tables, the rooftop pool deck and a business-study lounge. Students will also have access to meals on site, and rooms will have a microwave and minifridge.

The rooms will be located on floors that will be occupied only by students, and students will also have exclusive use of one full elevator bank to secure access to the floors, according to Stockton. The school will have staff living on site, and Showboat will provide space at its front desk for university personnel.

The per-semester rates for the rooms will be $4,500 for a single and $3,800 for a double, which is competitive with similar on-campus housing, according to the university.

“Students can now room at the Showboat and enjoy all the amenities of the hotel and its boardwalk location, while living at a treasured icon of local history," Brandon Dixon, president of Tower Investments, which owns the Showboat, said in a statement. "Having the students here will also bring a new exciting energy to the north side of the boardwalk.”

Stockton requested proposals for off-campus housing in Atlantic City based on the number of students who have applied to live in campus housing, according to Radwanski. Freshmen will be housed only in on-campus housing. Typically, about a third of Stockton’s almost 10,000 undergraduate students live in campus housing in Galloway and Atlantic City.

After its plans for the Showboat facility fell though, the university developed and opened an Atlantic City campus on another part of the boardwalk in fall 2018 with an academic building, a 543-bed residential complex and a parking garage.

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