Torre Lorenzo: Home sweet university residences

Noel Rapadas, CFO, Torre Lorenzo Development Corp.: Bringing university students closer to their schools through safe, comfortable, accessible living spaces.

With thousands of our students trooping back to school a few weeks from now, expect traffic to get even worse and Metro Manilans to get even more agitated. Well, as a student, didn’t you often wish you lived near — or as close as possible to — your school? Fact is some of our university students are living that dream right here, right now, thanks to Torre Lorenzo Premium University Residences. And it’s not your ordinary dormitory that has seen better days.

“In the US, we saw that student accommodations were far more comfortable than what we have here,” notes Emmanuel “Noel” Rapadas, chief finance officer and SVP for support services, Torre Lorenzo Development Corp. “Back in the 1990s, bed spacers were the norm. Most of the dormitories were really repurposed residential units. So we said, there must be a high-end market for better student accommodations.”

Thus, when Tomas Lorenzo, the towering spirit behind Torre Lorenzo, came home from the US, he built the first Torre Lorenzo Premium University Residences. His inspiration? His eight children, some of whom were already in university and themselves going through the nitty-gritty of looking for a halfway house that had premium amenities.

A hands-on CFO backed by an impressive portfolio in real estate development, Rapadas observes, “If you live in the south, like in Las Piñas, the cost of daily commute will come up to almost the same as the monthly rent for a condo unit, plus you spare your child from the stress of the daily travel, which is roughly one-and-a-half to two hours each way. That also goes for parents who bring their kids to school and fetch them after; they pay for the gasoline and the toll fee. Now, with what we offer, the two or three hours of daily commute are better spent by the student on studying, going to the gym, and engaging in more fruitful activities.”

Yes, there’s a full-fledged gym in all these premium university residences, so that students can stay physically fit as they juggle the demands of the academe.

According to Rapadas, students were an unserved sector for a long time. “For a while, nobody paid attention to the students because people thought it wasn’t a very big market. Now, they realize that’s not true. De La Salle University alone has a lot of students who come from the provinces.”

He adds, “Education ranks among the highest priorities of Filipino parents. Some parents who live in the provinces sell their land or their carabaos just to be able to send their kids to college. There are 300,000 university students and 60 percent of them come from the provinces. Lodging is often a problem when these kids come to Manila. They often end up staying with relatives who live far from their school.”

And now, there’s Torre Lorenzo Premium University Residences that students can call their home away from home — a safe, comfortable and accessible place to stay as they pursue their dreams.

“It’s really a brand for us,” says Rapadas with a hint of pride. “It’s a proper condominium except that the amenities are very student-centered. We were the first to introduce study areas, the first to introduce WiFi at the time it wasn’t popular yet. We also have fully equipped gyms. At the turn of the century, we introduced amenities never before thought of. We have retail facilities on the lower floors to cater to the needs of the students. We can say we pioneered this concept and we continue to upgrade it.”

It’s got well-thought-out and thoughtful features like an RFID system. “Like if your precious child comes home in the evening,” Rapadas begins to explain, “if he taps on the elevator, it would flash on the screen to alert the security guard. And then almost immediately, the security guard will text the parents, saying, ‘Your child came home at 7:30 p.m.’ It’s a feature found only at Torre Lorenzo.”

Spearheading this revolution in 2000, Torre Lorenzo has four completed premium university residences (Torre Lorenzo 1 along Taft Ave., 2 Torre Lorenzo in front of De La Salle University Manila, Torre Central near University of Santo Tomas, Torre Sur near University of Perpetual Help, along Alabang Zapote Road) while three are ongoing (3 Torre Lorenzo near St. Scholastica’s College Manila and La Salle Benilde, Torre Lorenzo Malate near UP Manila, and Torre Lorenzo Loyola along Katipunan, Quezon City).

Rapadas points out, “The thrust of Torre Lorenzo is to look for the top universities and build around them.”

“And we have more in the pipeline,” he discloses. “We’re looking at satellite schools, like we’re completing in La Salle Lipa (a mere block away from the South Luzon Expressway toll exit). We’re looking at other learning centers like Dumaguete, Baguio, Dagupan, even Cebu. We’re trying to make sure that the products we build in these locations are the ones that are needed there because of the issue of affordability. We study our market very extensively before building. We’re now looking for a mid-market for students. We’re expanding our footprint.”

The pioneer: Torre Lorenzo Premium University Residences were the first to introduce a study area as part of the amenities.

Torre Lorenzo’s premium university residences range from student units to bigger rooms. A 24-sqm. unit can comfortably accommodate three students. Usually, two students share a unit and by splitting the rent, a student pays about P10,000 per month. “We’re looking at between P7,000 and P12,000 per student per month,” Rapadas informs us. “And between P12,000 and P24,000 if you don’t want to share, depending on the size of the unit. Actually, there are rich parents who buy a unit for their kid and an adjacent one for the yaya. There are parents who accompany their children and sacrifice living near their children’s schools. Most of them don’t just rent, but there’s also a good rental market.”

There are also teachers who are renting near their schools. Actually, Torre Lorenzo Premium University Residences and Premium Residences are stand-alone communities designed for university students, young professionals, and young families looking to invest in their first condominium, as well as smart travelers looking for a place of leisure or a place to do business.

But what happens with the unit you bought when your child is done with school? “We tell our clients that they can keep it as an investment when they retire,” says Rapadas. “We have our rental assistance management program where we take care of renting the unit for you and maintaining it for you.”

Surely, when it comes to building premium residences not just for students, Torre Lorenzo has done its homework and made a mark in the industry.

That towering feeling: Now being built is Torre Lorenzo Loyola near Ateneo de Manila University.