Feb 202011
 
Authors: Erin Udell

Students who’ve signed on to live in the controversial Grove apartment complex could find themselves temporarily homeless come August, warns student government’s Director of Community Affairs Chase Eckerdt.

The Grove, a student housing development slated to open in August, hopes to draw in students with promises of “resort-style amenities,” but Eckerdt and community members worry about the project developer’s shaky history of producing living quarters of questionable quality and failing to open on time.

“There’s a lot of students who have signed leases over there. If they’re lucky, they’ll break ground by mid-summer, but there’s no way it will be ready by August,” Eckerdt said. “I would encourage anyone who signed a lease with Campus Crest to absolutely look for other housing. Don’t make that (the Grove) your No. 1 housing
priority.”

Last summer, Campus Crest Communities Inc., a North Carolina-based development company, leased a section of land on Center Street with the intention of making it the new home for the Grove.

The developer, which has 27 locations operating nationwide, touts “off-campus, resort-style amenities where you can study, eat, socialize and relax, all in style,” according to the Grove’s official website.

According to City Manager Darin Atteberry’s monthly report in November, the project would consist of 224 dwelling units in five 12-unit buildings, five 24-unit buildings, two 18-unit buildings, a clubhouse with eight dwelling units, a hospitality center, study lounge, café, game room and fitness center.

“We always knew it (the land) would be developed,” said Peggy Loonan, who lives in the Wind Trail on Spring Creek neighborhood near the development site. “And we always knew that it could be student housing, but this may not be the piece of land to house this kind of density — these 40-foot (tall) buildings.”

And Loonan said a pending civil lawsuit against Campus Crest’s mars the company’s credibility.

According to court documents, former York County, S.C. Grove employee Nicole McAuliffe was pressured by her co-workers to lease apartments for the 2009-10 school year “regardless of whether the apartment buildings would be ready for occupancy by the beginning of the academic term.”

Although Campus Crest did not return the Collegian’s phone calls, co-founders Ted Rollins and Mike Hartnett defended their development in an opinion piece published earlier this month in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

“Regretfully, today all companies are vulnerable to litigation, but we fully reject the claims that have been made and are actively working through the legal process and fully expect a successful outcome,” Rollins and Hartnett said.

Campus Crest’s troubles finishing projects on time extend to Colorado, too. In 2007, the Greeley Tribune reported that about 60 tenants in Greeley were put in hotel rooms after The Grove apartment complex in town couldn’t open until 10 days after its original construction date.

And worries about The Grove don’t end with construction timelines. Loonan pointed to a culture of complaint that permeates the online reviews about Campus Crest’s developments.

“I’m concerned about the product they produce,” she said, referring to complaints from Grove residents on apartment-rating websites. “We know it’s true because it’s virtually the same complaint all the way across — of thin walls, issues with appliance, move-in day issues.”

“It’s not just from one or two complexes; it’s from coast to coast,” Loonan added.

In their opinion article, Rollins and Hartnett recognized that some residents do complain but said with more than 35,000 former residents, they recognize not every single one will have had a “perfect living experience.”

“We operate in a competitive market where students have lots of options and continue to choose our facilities and to renew their leases for subsequent years,” they wrote.

Despite Loonan’s concerns, some members of surrounding communities like Doug Brobst see the construction as a welcomed change.

Brobst, a resident of the Rolland Moore neighborhood, said that more student housing will have a positive effect on surrounding neighborhoods, where investors are buying homes in established communities of single-family homes and renting them to college students, often breaking occupancy laws.

“Fort Collins is in dire need of affordable, attractive-to-students, multi-unit housing to hopefully reverse this trend,” Brobst said in an e-mail to the Collegian. “Projects like the Grove, if developed properly, could set a much-needed precedent.”

Eckerdt also sees the Grove as much-needed student housing due to the continued increase of student enrollment over the past few years.

Campus Crest has put another hold on planning the development by withdrawing their appeal to City’s Council’s November denial of their development plan, so community members have more time to voice their support or concerns to the city.

“I’m just concerned about what they say and what they do,” Loonan said. “They (Campus Crest) are talking the talk but not walking the walk.”

Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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