BY Investigative Editor
AND , Assistant Mosaic Editor
The Review approximates that Lang Development Group has siphoned 133 students into hotel rooms around campus due to slowed construction. As of Friday, the Mill Townhouses and The Lofts at Center Street both remain unfinished.
Although students initially expected to be able to move into their new apartments on Aug. 25, a series of delays has kept them stranded in hotels across campus as inconveniences pile up three weeks into the semester.
In the previous year, students signed leases with the Lang Development Group to live in brand-new apartment complexes that were slated for completion in August. However, the construction of these apartments has been delayed for a variety of reasons, including weather. As a result, Lang Development Group is paying for students to live in several hotels situated around campus. These hotels include the Courtyard Marriott on North Campus, The Embassy Suites and The Homewood Suites across from the football stadium on South Campus.
The Review conducted interviews with nine of the stranded tenants and analyzed a series of emails that Lang Development Group sent notifying tenants of construction progress and, inevitably, a delayed move-in date.
Sophomore Madeline Kelly was planning on living in The Lofts at Center Street, but instead, she currently shares a room with three other students at the Homewood Suites.
“It’s really annoying and frustrating,” Kelly said of the construction delays.
Emails reveal that, even as late as Aug. 1, Lang Development Group continued to project a move-in date of Aug. 25 to tenants renting apartments in The Mill Townhouses. It was not until Aug. 10 — a mere 15 days away from the previously projected move-in date — that Lang Development Group first notified tenants that they would be unable to move into the apartments until Sept. 8, two whole weeks into the semester.
On Aug. 31, three days after the students had been situated into their hotel rooms, expecting to be there for two weeks, Lang Development Group sent an email notifying tenants renting apartments in The Mill Townhouses that the projected move-in date had been revised to Sept. 15.
Then again on Sept. 13, two days before students expected to move in after a series of delays, Lang Development Group gave notice of a third change. The apartments would no longer be ready for move-in until Sept. 22 — a full week later.
“The only problem I really have is that they weren’t being upfront,” senior Nick Davis said. “It’s just Lang keeping us in the dark.”
Sophomore Michelle Barnes, who currently resides at the Courtyard Marriott and intends to move into the Mill Townhouses, signed her lease in the early fall of 2016. But upon arriving back on campus in February 2017 after winter vacation, she noticed that the planned location of her future apartment was still a “pile of dirt”.
“It took them a while to get started and I think that’s why they are having so many delays right now,” Barnes speculated.
The three weeks the students have been residing at the hotels have been riddled with a variety of obstacles, inconveniences and monetary challenges.
For many, the first concern was food.
In both complexes, the apartments would be equipped with both a kitchen and cooking instruments, including an oven, stove, full-sized refrigerator and a microwave. Owen Bartolotta, a sophomore staying at the Courtyard Marriott, does not even have access to a microwave. He lamented over his lack of ability to cook and prepare his own food — an aspect of living in an apartment that he was particularly excited for.
“I planned on making mostly every single meal. I like to cook and it’s cheaper,” Bartolotta said. “Now I’m buying every single meal.”
Lang Development Group is covering the bill for the students’ hotel rooms. Tenants are also not responsible for paying rent for the time being. Lang Development Group has recommended, to at least one student, that tenants use the money they are saving on rent to pay for food.
“They say the money we are saving not paying rent, we should spend on food, but they don’t realize it’s not our money,” Davis said. “Parents pay rent, I pay for everything else.”
Davis is not the only one who is not able to take Lang’s advice.
“The school’s kind of paying for mine. I’ve got a grad assistantship so they kind of pay for my rent as well,” Anyelo Almonte, Davis’ roommate, said. “So the money I am spending is money I barely have saved.”
But food is not the only concern.
According to Google Maps it is a 29 minute walk from The Homewood Suites to Gore Hall. The Homewood Suites confirmed that Lang Development Group is currently renting eight rooms in their hotel, with each room potentially housing as many as four students. The Embassy Suites on the other hand informed The Review that they are presently renting 21 rooms to Lang Development Group, with each room potentially housing up to three students. Based on the numbers provided by the two hotels, roughly 95 students are staying on South Campus.
Kelly and Emily Pawloski, roommates staying at the Homewood Suites together, find the walk from the Homewood Suites to Gore Hall unacceptable and instead opt to drive to class every single day. They pay metered parking or park in Trabant University Center Garage.
“I can tell you I have spent at least thirty dollars in quarters,” Kelly said.
This weekend the number of students isolated in hotels on South Campus will likely increase, as students living at the Courtyard Marriott have urgently been notified to vacate their rooms by Sept. 16.
Due to the booking schedule at the Courtyard Marriott, several of the 38 students currently residing at the hotel have been told they must vacate their room by Sept. 16, with no clear destination or sense of security.
In an email, Lang Development Group presented a few options on a first-come, first-serve basis. For the night of Sept. 16, they offered three options: Find your own lodging and receive a $50 credit toward rent, share a queen bed at the Candlewood Suites with a roommate or receive separate beds for roommates at the Red Roof Inn.
The options Lang offers for Sept. 17 through Sept. 22 are similar: You can find your own housing and receive a $50 credit per night that can be applied toward rent, a hotel room with two queen beds at the Candlewood Suites, a king-sized bed and sleeper sofa for two people or two queen beds and a sleeper sofa for three people at the Embassy Suites.
According to Google Maps, the Red Roof Inn and Candlewood Suites are a 42-minute walk from Gore Hall, which is 13 minutes longer than the walk from the Embassy Suites.
Lang Development Group gave tenants 27 hours to make a decision.
Almonte is spending Saturday night at the Candlewood Suites before making the move to the Embassy Suites for the rest of the week, but he is unsure of how he will move his belongings from North Campus to South Campus without a car.
“I don’t have a car so I will have to find a way to move all my stuff to the Candlewood on Saturday morning,” Almonte said. “Then all the way from the Candlewood to the Embassy Suites on Sunday morning.”
But the housing delays go beyond just affecting tenants, with the parents of out-of-state students being hit the hardest. Out-of-state students, like Bartolotta, often rely on their parents to help move them in at the beginning of the school year; the incremental delays have resulted in Bartolotta’s parents having to reschedule hotel and U-Haul reservations three times already.
“They work two full-time jobs,” Bartolotta said. “This isn’t really what they were expecting.”
Some students, however, have appreciated the hotel accommodations as a break from the ordinary.
“When they told us we were going to be put up in a hotel, I’m like, alright well I will treat it like a vacation,” Nick Davis said. “There’s also the time I found out we had a pool and a jacuzzi.”
But others, like Munzer Suliman, a sophomore who is set to move into the Center Street complex on Sept. 29, are furious at the amount of delays and inconveniences caused.
“I think this is ridiculous,” Suliman said. “I want some sort of compensation for this.”
Lang Development Group declined to comment for this article.
UPDATE: Interim Dean of Students, Adam Cantley, said that while his office has not been approached by any students, he would encourage them to reach out to discuss ways the university can help them out.
“Knowing that some students are experiencing some issues around this, we would be happy to talk to them to see what we could do to support them.” Cantley said. “That’s true for any students experiencing a struggling situation. That’s the purpose of the Office of the Dean of Students.”
Contact Jacob Orledge at (302) 270-8402 or email@example.com.