The new owner of the Studio Green and Park Place apartments is planning a multi-million-dollar renovation of the aging complexes with the intention of marketing them toward non-students.
The two complexes, which are separated by Elkton Road, contain a total of more than 700 units. Studio Green, formerly Towne Court, is on Thorn Lane, and Park Place surrounds Lehigh Road.
Brian Paule, director of property management for the Galman Group, said the company was attracted to the complexes due to their proximity to the STAR Campus and UD.
“We just love the location,” he said. “We didn’t think there was a better piece of dirt to buy in the state.”
The company paid a total of $40 million for the properties, according to public records.
The renovation plans include new kitchens with open-space layouts and new bathrooms. Galman also plans to renovate the complex’s community center, which includes basketball courts, a pool and other amenities.
“We’re going to take that space and kick it up a notch,” Paule said.
Once the renovations are done, the complexes will have a total of 22 studio units, 343 one-bedroom units and 350 two-bedroom units. Rents will be an average of $1,100 for a one-bedroom and $1,300 for a two-bedroom.
Galman plans to do the renovations gradually, starting with apartments that are already vacant. The first renovated units are expected to be complete by September, but the overall project could last two to three years, Paule said.
The complexes will be renamed Thorn Flats and Lehigh Flats.
Based in Jenkintown, Pa., Galman manages 6,000 apartment units in the Delaware Valley, including Cooper’s Place near Brookside and Buckingham Place Townhomes off Old Baltimore Pike.
Paule said the company specializes in renovating aging apartment complexes and never considered demolishing the buildings and rebuilding from scratch.
“We always stick to what we know. This is what we do,” he said. “These buildings are built great. We’d like to go in and fix them up.”
Built in the 1960s, the apartment complexes have been outshined by a number of newer, luxury student apartments built around town. As the city experiences a shortage of student housing, Studio Green and Park Place are two of the few places that still have vacancies, Newark Landlord Association President Kevin Mayhew said earlier this year.
“A lot of students don’t want to live there,” he told city council.
Galman’s plan to focus on market-rate apartments rather than student housing certainly puts it in rare company in Newark.
With UD increasing its enrollment while closing dorms, other developers have doubled down on the student market, racing to get new projects approved and trying to appeal to students and their deep-pocketed parents with luxury amenities.
Paule, though, believes it’s a bet that will pay off for Galman.
“We think there’s plenty of room for great market-rate housing,” Paule said.
While Studio Green and Park Place were largely marketed toward students – the past owner was Campus Living Villages, which runs student housing complexes across the country and internationally – Galman intends to target employees at the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, professors, young professionals and others.
Paule said the renovated apartments will be “student-friendly” but not student-dominated. Galman plans to rent by the unit rather than by the bed like many student complexes do.
“We don’t look at it as student housing,” he said. “We won’t market it that way.”
Galman is hardly the first developer to promise to market to young professionals. Companies like The Retreat and One Easton promoted their plans that way while in front of city council seeking rezonings, only to do a 180-degree turn toward the student market by the time the apartments were built.
Galman, though, is not seeking a rezoning and does not need any other approval from city council.
Mary Ellen Gray, planning and development director for the city of Newark, said Studio Green and Park Place have always had some non-students living there but added that more market-rate housing is a good thing for the city.
“In addition to student housing, we need a balance of other rental housing in the community as well,” she said.
It’s good to see Galman investing in the complexes, she added.
“It definitely needed some love,” Gray said. “We are very pleased there’s a new owner that’s rehabilitating the property and is going to breathe some new life into that property.”