For alumni, new condos being pitched as home away from home

Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 30, 2006 at 11:43 p.m.
Two projects on W. University Avenue are banking on the loyalty of University of Florida alumni to fill the condominium complexes.
Well, at least when the Gators are playing.
The developers behind University Corners, an eight-story, three-block-long project, and Stadium Club, an eight-story, 24-condo tower, are marketing their projects primarily to alumni who will use their units during football games and other excursions into Gainesville, but live elsewhere most of the year.
"People are coming back and saying they gained their degree here at the University of Florida and they attribute their success to that," said Matt Thomas, who is marketing Stadium Club as a Realtor with Bosshardt Realty. "They'd like to be able to come back and still be a part of Gainesville."
Judging by reservation rates at the complexes, alumni are responding. Stadium Club has received deposits for 10 units in less than a month, Matt Thomas said. And University Corners has reservations on more than 350 condos - the complex could include up to 475 units under revised plans, said John Thomas, who is marketing University Corners for Bosshardt.
"There are parents buying for their kids here but that's not certainlynot dominant," John Thomas said. "They're mainly baby-boomers coming back to Gainesville as a second or third home."
Alumni looking for a home away from home in Gainesville shouldn't expect it to come cheap. University Corners' least expensive units will run a customer $200,000, while those in Stadium Club start at $400,000. The most expensive penthouse units in both projects top out at about $1.8 million.
Condos that will act as a secondary home for alumni are new to Gainesville, but have been gaining traction at large schools around the country.
The trend is popular enough that one company, Gameday Centers of Atlanta, focuses solely on "luxury sports condominiums" and has projects near some of UF's rivals: the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama and Auburn University. New projects are under way near Florida State University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee.
For University Corners, marketing to alumni comes with a twist: when owners aren't using their condos they can put the units into a pool of rooms that will be used as hotel rooms by a management company. More than half of the units at University Corners can be used as "condotels."
Parts of University Corners are specifically designed with alumni and other condotel owners in mind, including "lock-out" efficiency units that are attached to larger multi-bedroom condos. When the condo's owners are around, a door connecting the units can be opened to create a single, larger space, but the owner can also store his belongings in the efficiency, lock it and put the larger unit to use as a hotel room.
About 98 percent of the 248 hybrid units in University Corners have already been reserved, John Thomas said.
No decision has been made yet as to who will manage the condotels, but two "well-known" hotel companies are "very aggressively pursuing putting their flag" on University Corners, John Thomas said.
"Condo hotels are not new, they're all over the world," John Thomas said. "Most of them are in destination cities. The uniqueness here is the destination is the University of Florida."
Jeff Adelson can be reached at 374-5095 or

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