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Higher Education Real Estate

Advancing Strategic Campus Expansion

Colleges and universities continually strive to enhance their campuses by developing new buildings and redeveloping existing buildings to stimulate collaboration and socialization, by upgrading infrastructure and replacing systems, and by adding amenities—all in an effort to entice students, faculty and research funding; to prepare students for the job market; and to engage their local communities. Construction and renovation projects are large capital outlays for these institutions and present a variety of challenges.

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP’s dedicated team of real estate and construction attorneys focused on the higher education industry helps colleges, universities and developers across the United States navigate the complexities and challenges in their real estate transactions, developments and construction projects. We provide integrated legal representation throughout all phases of a campus development project or real estate transaction in the following areas:

  • Construction, including mixed-use and multi-property projects
  • Acquisitions/dispositions
  • Financing, including public private partnerships (P3) and public bonds
  • Land use: zoning, land development, permitting, environmental, transportation, utilities
  • Leasing, including ground leases, leasebacks and on-campus retail leases

Our attorneys have advised on a wide variety of development and redevelopment projects on college and university campuses. We are well-versed in the nuances and complexities inherent in higher education real estate projects, such as the impact that construction project agreements can have on a school’s credit rating; the variety of complicated agreements regarding ownership, ground leases and leasebacks; and the critical importance of community relations.


Here are some of the higher education clients that Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr attorneys have advised:

  • Public Private Partnerships (P3s)
    A Pennsylvania college in negotiating a ground lease for, and in connection with, the P3 development of a mixed-use structure with student housing for 500-700 students and retail amenities. Additionally, we have represented the college in matters relating to its development of a parking facility and roof-top athletic facility, including the ground lease, lease amendments, conveyance agreements and tax appeals. The firm also represented the college in connection with another P3 development project for student and market-rate housing.
    A Pennsylvania college in connection with a P3 development of new student dormitories and retail.
  • Student Housing
    A Pennsylvania university in connection with an on-campus dormitory building redevelopment agreement.
    A Chicago college in negotiations for a 10-year dormitory master lease of a new apartment building. This master lease will provide student housing for more than 330 students and marks a new era where all of the college’s dormitories are master-leased facilities.
    A New England university in connection with the development and construction of a new student housing building and a related student success center.
    A Pennsylvania college in connection with a P3 development of new student dormitories and retail.
    A New York university in the two-phase construction of a 1,000-bed student housing facility on its campus.
    A Pennsylvania university in obtaining land-use and zoning approvals for a student housing building.
    A Pennsylvania university in the redevelopment of a warehouse building adjacent to campus into graduate housing and retail space.
  • Campus Development/Master Development
    A Pennsylvania university on a ground lease and development agreement with a master developer for a five-million square-foot mixed-use urban innovation district designed to promote creativity, research, cooperative education, and technological advancement in a new neighborhood offering commercial office, academic, and research space, residential and hotel units, retail and restaurants, and iconic recreational spaces.
    A Delaware university as outside real estate and land use counsel, including on the following matters: 1) a new 10-story office building; 2) the ground lease on its new technology campus that includes a Fortune 500 company’s research facility; 3) ground lease and construction issues in partnership with the Delaware Department of Transportation for a new passenger train station at its new technology campus; 4) the sale of a decommissioned dormitory site; 5) advice regarding cell towers and negotiation of cell tower leases with service providers.
    A Pennsylvania college in connection with the development, with a private developer, of a three-phase “Main Street” mixed use project designed to add vibrancy to a small college town through the construction of retail, commercial and residential facilities.
    A Pennsylvania university in the development of a 20-acre mixed-use development project.
    A Philadelphia university in lease negotiations for a 24,000-square-foot space for use as a flex-factory and/or other single-use technology operations and for training facilities, classrooms and other ancillary uses, as the initial anchor of a developing innovation center.
    A New Jersey university in the development of an administrative building and large parking facility.
  • Campus Hotels
    A hotel and real estate development company in The Study at University of Chicago hotel project on the University of Chicago’s campus. We advised on the agreement to enter into the ground lease, ground lease and parking license negotiation, and construction contract negotiation and financing.
    A hotel and real estate development company in The Study at University City hotel project on Drexel University’s campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We advised on the legislative amendment to Drexel’s Master Plan, coordinated community and government relations, and successfully navigated the Civil Design Review and Art Commission review process. We also assisted the client with the ground lease and parking license negotiation and the construction contract negotiation and financing.
    A developer of an on-campus hotel project at a Baltimore university.
    A New Jersey university in the negotiation of the acquisition of a hotel and related parking facilities (subsequently terminated due to environmental concerns).
    A New Jersey university in the sale of a resort hotel and two associated golf courses.


The group includes attorneys who have received the following recognition:

Trade Groups & Associations


Erik F. Williams
James E. Goodrich
Megan E. Moyer
David J. Martin