Lower Manhattan, the rapidly changing swath of land at the island's southern tip, is developing a new reputation—as the city's college town.

Pace University's dormitory at 182 Broadway. Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

New Neighbors

Higher-education additions in Lower Manhattan since 2012:

New York Film Academy expanded into a second, 75,000-square-foot location at 17 Battery Place.

NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies renewed its 64,000-square-foot Woolworth Building lease.

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine moved from Midtown South to a 42,000 square-foot space at 110 William Street.

Nyack College launched its Manhattan campus in 2013 at a 166,000-square-foot space at 2 Washington Street.

The Institute of Culinary Education has plans to relocate from Midtown South to a 71,000-square-foot facility at 225 Liberty Street.

Pace University will open a 34-story dormitory in 2015.

-- Source: Alliance for Downtown New York

In the one square mile south of Chambers Street, the higher-education sector now maintains over 2 million square feet of space, a jump of nearly 1 million square feet since 2006, according to a report being released on Tuesday by the Alliance for Downtown New York, the area's business-improvement district.

Student enrollment in the neighborhood has nearly doubled since 2006 to about 50,000 today, according to the report, and the student residential population stands at about 5,000, with more than 2,000 students living in local residence halls.

Like any number of trends in New York City, this industry growth spurt is inextricably tied to the real-estate market.

The area of Manhattan encompassing parts of Battery Park and the Financial District has been growing in population and commercial activity over the past decade, but there are still pockets of space big enough for the sizable facilities higher education institutions often require, said Stephanie Jennings, vice president for economic development at the Alliance. "There's room," she said. "It's a big area."

Lower Manhattan's average asking rent is $14 per-square-foot less than Midtown South, according to an Alliance analysis of the most recent Cushman & Wakefield quarterly report, and $21 per-square-foot less than Midtown, another higher-education hub.

Leasing to higher-education tenants in the district has increased 82% since 2004, according to the report. Four deals were signed for higher-education tenants in Lower Manhattan last year, the report says, and 23% of all higher-education leasing citywide since 2010 has occurred in the area.

Adam Enbar, the co-founder of tech-focused trade school the Flatiron School, moved his institution from Midtown South to a Lower Manhattan space last year. "When we came down here, we realized the types of spaces we could get [in Lower Manhattan] are things we could never afford—or even find—within our limited budget in Midtown," Mr. Enbar said.

Proximity to transportation options was also cited by administrators as a draw to the area.

With students commuting from Brooklyn, New Jersey and parts of Manhattan, Mr. Enbar said, Lower Manhattan is a central location for his student body.

Nyack College, a private Christian liberal-arts school, moved to Battery Park last year, more than doubling its space. Also sharing the neighborhood are Pace University, Borough of Manhattan Community College, a New York University engineering campus and the New York Film Academy, among others. Coming soon to the district: the Institute of Culinary Education, which is relocating from Midtown South to a 71,000-square-foot facility at Liberty Street.

Pace has long been in the area, but has increased its residential footprint over the past five years, opening new dormitories and expanding academic facilities. On deck for the 2015-2016 academic year: a new 34-story, 385-bed dormitory.

"Pace was once a local commuter school," said Bill McGrath, senior vice president of the university, but students "desire more of a residential experience then they did in the past."

For longtime Lower Manhattan inhabitants, the influx of college students—a demographic that sometimes clashes with their more cosmopolitan neighbors—could inspire concern.

Perry Patel, 43 years old, who has run a news kiosk on the corner of Broadway and John Street for 17 years, says he has definitely seen more students in the neighborhood in recent years, especially since Pace University opened a new residence hall down the block this academic year. So far, he says the students don't give him much business, and they can be disruptive.

"I see some of the students getting into fights out on the street all the time," he said. "Once or twice, one of them has picked something up and not paid for it."

For his part, Financial District resident Gerry Senker said the student population is "so diffuse, you hardly notice them." Mr. Senker, 63, lives by a Pace dorm and said he sees "clusters" of college-looking-types at local frozen yogurt shops, but he hasn't come across any unusual rowdiness.

Unlike their counterparts in other New York City neighborhoods, some members of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan are embracing their new neighbors, even inviting urban-planning students to their meetings. "We're their real-life study project," said Catherine McVay Hughes, the board's head.

Ms. Hughes said college students help local businesses and "add vibrancy" to an area devastated by the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. "Youth provides energy," she said.

—Nicholas Pinto contributed to this article.