The Mark building mug

The Mark Athens sits off Oconee Street near The University of Georgia campus on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. The Mark is a popular place for students to live off campus after their freshman year. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

One of Athens’ largest apartment complexes is about to get larger.

Luxury student apartment complex The Mark Athens will expand with 446 new beds to complement its current 928 beds. About 160,000 square feet of new residential area is planned — the complex currently has 370,000 square feet of residential space.

Landmark Properties said in a press release that The Mark has been fully leased since opening, and a Landmark spokesperson said demand for rooms has “continued to surpass supply, which indicates the need for more housing.”

Scheduled to be completed and ready to lease by August 2021, “Phase II” of the development will also add 20,000 square feet of commercial retail space to its current 80,000. Retailers that occupy The Mark includes Orangetheory Fitness, Frutta Bowls, Golden Pantry and Sugar Polish Nail Bar.

Phase II will be built on the grassy area that currently overlooks the Firefly trail, the spokesperson said.

The Mark and similar developments have attracted controversy and criticism from Athens residents who lament large, upscale apartments that market to students.

According to a study presented in February by the Athens Team of the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing — an initative of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs — Athens has 0.13 housing units per capita, lower than the state average of 0.21. In other words, there are 13 housing units for every 100 Athenians.

Even as Athens grows and new multifamily developments are built, 67% of new development from 2005-2015 was targeted at students. What’s more, nearly half of all rental properties are marketed to or occupied by the approximately 17,800 students who live off-campus.

From 2000-2016, Athens’ population grew by 7%, while housing growth increased by 2%. About half of Athens residents who rent pay more than 30% of their income for housing.

Critics also charge the high-end apartments with changing the character of downtown.

Supporters of downtown student developments say the apartments boost the local economy, take pressure off the single-family housing market and increase population density, making the city more sustainable.

Rent prices at The Mark are around $1,000 for a studio and up to $900 per person in a five-bedroom unit, and will be about the same with the expansion, the spokesperson said.

Amenities at The Mark include a fitness center, basketball and racquetball courts, an arcade and a gameroom, “free tanning,” a golf simulator and a rooftop pool. Rooms are fully-furnished with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Shortly after opening in 2017, many tenants of The Mark complained online about incomplete construction.

“Our high renewal and occupancy rates are a testament to the quality of life and living experiences our current and prospective residents at The Mark expect and enjoy,” the spokesperson said, adding that construction access roads will be established and maintained to reduce the impact on current residents.

Though Landmark’s president and CEO is Athens native J. Wesley Rogers, the company has built dozens of properties across the country. In Georgia, Landmark also built The Standard at Athens. The Standard has a counterpart of the same name in midtown Atlanta, and The Mark at Atlanta plans to start leasing for fall 2020.

With six other projects announced at the same time as The Mark, Landmark is set to increase the value of its assets under construction to about $2.9 billion, the press release stated.

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