Finding space for a top liberal arts college to grow
U3 Advisors has served as Lafayette College’s real estate advisor since 2015, working closely with senior leadership to develop a real estate strategy to support the College’s ambitious growth plan. Under the leadership of then-President Alison Byerly, Lafayette set a goal of increasing its student body from 2,500 to 2,900 students (a 16% increase) within a six-to eight-year window. A highly selective liberal arts college known for its exceptional engineering program, Lafayette aimed to admit more students, increasing the diversity and quality of its student body and bolstering its financial aid program. Lafayette’s physical plant had been operating at full capacity and needed to grow in order to accommodate additional students. As an anchor institution in Easton, it was also important to Lafayette to expand and integrate itself in the community in a thoughtful manner, to benefit students and long-time residents alike.
U3 first focused on developing a student housing strategy that would meet Lafayette’s specific programmatic and financial goals. A hallmark of the Lafayette experience is the four-year on-campus housing requirement; however, given capacity constraints, the College had to permit some students to live off-campus. U3 designed a plan to develop 600 new beds over the next several years to accommodate a larger student body, de-densify residence halls, minimize off-campus rentals, and demolish outdated buildings.
Our team also advised Lafayette on the potential of a using a public-private partnership (P3) to develop the new housing so that the College could preserve its borrowing capacity for other mission-critical projects, including a new Integrated Sciences Center. U3 managed a competitive developer solicitation process for the first phase of new beds, helped Lafayette select a developer, and negotiated a long-term ground lease and management agreement on behalf of the College. In partnership with Radnor Property Group and Harrison Street Real Estate Capital, Lafayette broke ground in Spring 2019 on a new 165-bed residence hall on McCartney Street, which opened in Fall 2020. The new building is located at the edge of campus and features ground-floor retail to serve students and the College Hill community, including a diner and the student bookstore. U3 is currently involved in planning efforts for the second phase of student housing.
U3 also played a key role in helping Lafayette to establish a meaningful physical presence in downtown Easton. The College was interested in leasing office space to accommodate communications, community engagement, and back-of-house information technology and admissions employees, which would free up critical space in central on-campus locations. U3 developed and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to several Easton landlords, evaluated proposals, helped Lafayette select a location, and negotiated a lease on behalf of the College. In 2017, 80 employees moved into a new 20,000 SF office suite in the Alpha Building, making Lafayette – already the largest employer in the City of Easton – now one of the largest employers downtown.
U3 has also supported the College in a number of other efforts, including leasing 1,500 SF of classroom space at New York Law School for the Lafayette NYC program, and writing case studies and hosting real estate “boot camps” for students, for the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s annual Real Estate Competition.