Market Update Western Europe

Virtual Summit IT

September 10th, 2020


During The Class Conference 2018 in Milan, we identified the opportunity of transforming the post-industrial spaces into ‘concrete playground’ for the creative, entrepreneurial spirits of their respective cities. These brownfield sites are ripe opportunities for transformation, perfect for cultivation into idea breeding grounds by the municipalities they lie within. We also confirmed a strong desire of the local knowledge centres like universities to reimagine and redefine former industrial landscapes to act as urban campuses where their students can experiment and learn to contribute to new societal wants and needs of our new, global world-order. In September 2020, when most Italian universities are expected to open their campus with blended learning, we brought together the key stakeholders across university cities, higher education, and student housing to explore intensified opportunities the new normal will present.

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Cecilia De Re

Councilor for Urban Planning

Municipality of Florence

Djordy Seelmann



Ernesto Albanese

Founder & CEO


Frank Uffen


The Class Foundation

Giulio Limongelli



Jorick Beijer

Co-Founder & Urbanist


Luca Montuori

Councilor for Urban Planning

Municipality of Rome

Paddy Allen


Cushman & Wakefield

Rienk Oosterhof

Chief Real Estate Officer

The Student Hotel

Stefano Caselli

Dean of International Affairs

Bocconi University

Stefano Pagliani

Investment Associate


Yoony Kim

Managing Director

The Class Foundation

Bringing together the intertwined industries, including higher education, real estate, and European university cities.


  1. Universities stride from recovery to resurgence. University teaching kicks-off across Italy between mid-September and early October, made possible by blended learning, mandatory facemasks and campus modifications. For Stefano Caselli,Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi University, the pandemic has highlighted that education should not be taken for granted, motivating educators to transform higher education for the better. Bonard and The Class of 2020 will continue to track the opening of the academic year across nine key European markets.
  2. The cities haven’t (yet) lost their luster. The combination of a 40-45% decrease in demand for rental accommodation and the migration of short-term providers to the long-term market at the pandemic’s outset caused Europe’s most dramatic price nosedives in Milan, Florence and Turin. But, according to Djordy Seelmann, CEO of HousingAnywhere,climbing accommodation bookings on the platform ahead of the academic year indicate that these university cities are still magnets for talent. With American, Chinese and Indian students and young professionals staying away, full market recovery will take at least two years and will likely be driven by mobile European talent.
  3. Still early mover advantage and opportunities for new living concepts. Purpose-built housing for students and young professionals remains undersupplied in Italy, although up to 8,500 beds will be brought forward in the coming years. According to co-moderator Paddy Allen, Partner at Cushman & Wakefield, there are still many known-unknowns to explore regarding student preferences, particularly with regards to pricing and how families fund education. What is clear is that students and their families value the peace of mind of purpose-built products, particularly in the current situation. With the playbook still being written in this market, there is ample room to pioneer new blended models and mixed-use campus concepts.
  4. Diversity is essential for an urban campus to thrive. Blended living players are leading the way in bringing together diverse local and international communities. Remaining rooted in the surrounding neighbourhood while creating spaces for students, working professionals, international visitors and locals to interact and connect is the key element of an authentic campus.
  5. The urban campus proposition is a powerful tool for cities, universities and corporates, perhaps now more than ever. University-led urban regeneration leverages talent towards transforming parts of the city. Italian cities in particular are activating district regeneration and positioning urban campuses as part of their spatial strategies. Luca Montuori, Urban Planning Commissioner of Rome showcases Rome’s determination for talent attraction and retention and the significant opportunities presented for urban campus regeneration on sites the city has launched as part of the C40 Reinventing Cities competition. Investors, operators and developers are injecting millions into such opportunities to deliver the visionary mash-up of infrastructure needed to support talent growth in cities across Italy. The desire of corporations to capture this talent by positioning themselves in the buzz of urban campuses brings scope for long term prosperity for cities.


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