Inn at Auraria overcomes break, boosts occupancy

Downtown Denver has not traditionally been known as a hotbed of campus life.

Downtown Denver has not traditionally been known as a hotbed of campus life.

Three colleges - Metropolitan State University, Community College of Denver, and Colorado University at Denver - are housed in the Auraria Campus downtown, but students commute to class and tend to split as soon as school is out. The Inn at Auraria is a student housing project that aimed to change that last year. But by April 2006, only 19 leases were signed; 205 were needed to continue construction.

Strategy

Webb PR had two weeks to work with before students left campus for the summer, notes Jim Licko, account manager at Webb PR. The firm aimed to reach students before the break, find nontraditional ways to reach them over the summer, and create a summer-long media relations effort targeting students and parents. The main message points were proximity to campus; low-cost, apartment-style, high-rise living, unlike dorms; and spectacular views.

Tactics

Webb PR used student focus group results to create collateral materials, including brochures, signage, a Web site, and giveaways. It worked with the staff at the Tivoli Student Union to add signage and one-on-one meetings with students over finals week, and held two "free pizza and Red Bull" sessions there to drive traffic to the leasing office. Webb PR hired and managed an eight-student street team to work from May to mid-August at places students frequent in the summer: festivals, concerts, bars, and sports leagues.

Results

"By the time students were ready to move in, more than 215 had signed leases, securing the funding needed to make the project a reality," Licko says. Adds Jim McGibney, CEO of First Century Development, "All indicators are we are going to get 100% occupancy."
 
Future

Webb PR and First Century Development continue to work together to bring students to the housing.

First Century Development

PR team: First Century Development (Denver) and Webb PR (Denver)

Campaign: The Inn at Auraria

Duration: April-September 2006

Budget: $45,000

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