Planning for Higher Education Journal

The University as a Real Estate Developer–A New Role for an Old Institution

Journal Cover
From Volume 17 Number 1 | 1988–1989
By Werner Sensbach

There has always been a demand for land surrounding the campus. Business people have been drawn to these areas, seeking to make a profit from the provision of goods and services to students. As financial support from federal and state sources decreases, today's colleges and universities are beginning to look beyond traditional sources of funding. Development of real estate holdings near campus is a means of generating an income and providing long-range financing of operations. Private institutions have known the advantage of acquiring and selling real estate. Cornell, Stanford, Harvard, George Washington, and Princeton Universities have been at the forefront of land development to fiance higher education. On the other hand, public universities have traditionally received monetary support from state tax dollars and tuition. However, universities must look to alternative investment, including stocks, bonds, and real estate holdings. The University of Virginia looked to real estate development as a source of income and long-range fiscal policy. It employed the Washington-based consulting firm Urban Land Institute (ULI) for advice. ULI required the institution to develop a community profile study (land use, population, and employment). The university, incorporating ULI's recommendations, instituted a successful real estate program to acquire property beyond the campus confines. Cooperative land use planning with the city and county and the university's promise to keep procured property on the tax rolls have made this venture a success. Its concern for the community, foresight to invest in off-campus property, and quest for better economic opportunities will be of interest and profit to other institutions.

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