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Harrison Street buys Victoria, Burnaby student housing assets

The Shelley, development JV with Rize in Burnaby are firm's first student housing investments in B.C.

The Shelley student housing facility in Greater Victoria. (Courtesy Harrison Street)
The Shelley student housing facility in Greater Victoria. (Courtesy Harrison Street)

Harrison Street has entered the B.C. student housing market with the acquisitions of two complexes, the Shelley in Victoria and a 283-bed building under development on Burnaby Mountain near Simon Fraser University in Metro Vancouver.

These are the third and fourth student housing acquisitions for Chicago-based Harrison Street, and its open-ended Canada Alternative Real Estate Fund, during 2023. That makes the fund the most active student housing investor in the country, Harrison Street noted in the announcement on Thursday.

In total, the fund has transacted on about $1.2 billion in alternative assets since its inception in 2021. 

Harrison Street did not disclose financial details of the acquisitions.

Burnaby student housing development

The Burnaby transaction involves the development of a building for students and young professionals. Construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2026-'27 academic year and will be developed in partnership with Rize, a Vancouver based mixed-use developer. 

The development will provide students with “more affordable rental options” through three- and four-bedroom configurations, Harrison Street states in the release. The 283 beds will be contained within 168 apartment units.

It will be the first private, off-campus, fully furnished rental property near SFU and is to be built on the last developable plot within SFU’s UniverCity District. 

SFU has an enrolment of over 37,350 students.

“Our region is experiencing an acute shortage of rental housing and students are finding it increasingly challenging to find suitable accommodation,” Chad Boorman, the chief financial officer of Rize, said in the announcement.

“We’re proud to be partnering with Harrison Street to bring this much-needed project to the SFU community and to explore new forms of housing which will make these homes more attainable for younger residents.”

The Shelley in Victoria

The second transaction is the acquisition of The Shelley, a modern boutique student housing/young professional asset near the University of Victoria. It contains 88 beds in 78 apartment units.

UVic hosts approximately 22,000 students, and enrolment growth has been steadily increasing.

The Shelley is located at 3949 Shelbourne St. in the Saanich area. Part of an emerging hub near UVic, the district offers an array of retail amenities, central bus routes and a short walk to campus.

"Harrison Street is proud to announce our latest ventures in Canada, solidifying our commitment to student housing and increasing our geographic reach across the country,” Harrison Street’s managing director Jonathan Turnbull said in the announcement.

“These two new transactions represent noteworthy achievements for our firm and highlight our continued commitment to developing housing solutions that meet the growing demand from students not only in British Columbia but across the country. 

“As we witness the strength of university enrolment nationwide, these initiatives underscore our dedication to providing exceptional living spaces and contributing to the growth and vibrancy of these communities.”

Over the past 12 months, Harrison Street has acquired two student housing properties in Kingston, Ont., which contain a total of 53 units and 145 beds; broken ground on a 303-apartment high-rise known as Block 15 in Calgary’s University District; and acquired the newly constructed, 279-bed Le Mildoré purpose-built student accommodation in Montreal.

About Harrison Street

Harrison Street is an international investment management firm exclusively focused on alternative real assets and is one of the largest private owners of student housing globally.

The firm’s Canadian student housing portfolio currently includes over 1,700 beds.

The Canada Alternative Real Estate Fund targets investments in high-quality senior living, student housing, medical office, life sciences, storage and digital assets.

Since its inception in 2005, Harrison Street has invested across senior housing, student housing, health-care delivery, life sciences and storage real estate as well as social and utility infrastructure. 

Headquartered in Chicago and London, with offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia, the firm has more than 280 employees and approximately US $56 billion in assets under management.

Clients include a global institutional investor base domiciled in North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Latin America. 

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