The Rowan

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

University: University of South Carolina, Benedict College, and Allen University

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occupancy achieved in fall 2021

increase in occupancy by Year Two of property management

rental rate increase of 37.45%

increase in new sessions to The Rowan website

The Challenge

In 2019, Campus Advantage was hired to perform a financial and property due diligence on The Southern at 1051 — a 1,002-bed townhome-style student housing property in Columbia, South Carolina, that targeted the University of South Carolina demographic. Following the diligence efforts, Campus Advantage was then contracted to provide management services and also manage the multimillion-dollar capital projects. Prior to the Emet Capital acquisition/Campus Advantage management transition, The Southern at 1051 was occupied at 45%, while a similar student housing property located across the street was occupied at 92%.

The Solution

The Campus Advantage Consulting team made recommendations for capital improvements to the unit interiors/exteriors and common areas, the implementation of a strong leasing and marketing strategy, and the creation of a plan to reposition the property in the market with a rebrand.
Upon being awarded management, Campus Advantage immediately increased the customer service standards and hosted various resident events to begin building a sense of community. Campus Advantage’s Students First® Experience residence life program was implemented, and a resident appreciation week was hosted after the fall 2019 move-in to jump-start the leasing season and establish a positive reputation for the property.
Campus Advantage enlisted the help of Catalyst, their marketing partner, to complete a rebranding of The Southern at 1051. New management/ownership requested the rebranding be clean and modern, but also wanted to stand out in the market. The first step in rebranding was to select a new name, and Catalyst chose The Rowan, which captures the essence of the USC Gamecock spirit. With “rowan” meaning a variation of the color red, this sturdy name serves as a nod to the university’s color palette of garnet, black, and white.

Catalyst created a unique logo that incorporated contemporary font styles, colors, and textures. To parallel the main garnet brand color, a broad secondary palette of yellow, teal, mint, navy, and off-white also was included. In addition, bold stripes and geometric patterns round out the brand, achieving the eye-catching look the client requested.

To promote The Rowan brand in the community, Catalyst used both digital and traditional media, including a custom website, a brochure, a sales sheet, a handout, a paper system, social graphics, and social media marketing. The success of the naming and branding also secured additional work with the client, including a bus wrap that featured the rebranded design elements and complementary lifestyle imagery, and a CapEx campaign to promote property renovations.
Property renovations included a clubhouse redesign with a new resident study area, new pool furniture, an updated activity room, and a state-of-the-art fitness center with a CrossFit area and new equipment. Apartment renovations included upgraded features such as stainless-steel appliances, hardwood-style floors, shaker-style cabinetry with satin nickel hardware, and designer light fixtures. The Rowan’s unique townhome-style apartments were also highlighted, alongside its dedicated shuttle service and highly competitive rates.

The Results

From 2019 to fall 2021, there was a 37.45% rent increase with rates starting at $462 and increasing to $635. By Year 2 of property management, Campus Advantage increased the property’s occupancy by 40% and reduced bad debt accumulated from previous ownership. As of fall 2021, the property achieved 95% occupancy with a 5% increase in effective rates.

From 2019 to 2022, Catalyst digital campaigns and SEO services attributed to:

  • 581% increase in new sessions to the website (145,399 vs. 21,341)
  • 551% increase in new users to the website (95,514 vs. 14,662)
  • 1,379% increase in website goal conversions (4,777 vs. 323)
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