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After fire, Brookside tenants try to make new housing plans

Sunday, May 27, 2012 | 7:01 p.m. CDT; updated 7:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Firefighters Sunday morning worked to put out a fire that heavily damaged the Brookside on College apartments under construction at College Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Columbia.

COLUMBIA — Following a devastating fire at the unfinished Brookside on College apartments, it's unclear to tenants whether their housing plans, like the building, are still salvageable.

The fire broke out early Sunday morning and continued to smolder as of 3:30 p.m. The blaze consumed the 145,000-square-foot student apartment complex scheduled to open in August.

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In an announcement to tenants released shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, Brookside officials estimated that 30 percent of the apartment structure could be ready around the start of the fall semester.

Brookside believes that the remainder of the building could be ready by January. In the announcement, Brookside said it's in negotiation with Stephens College for temporary housing arrangements for the displaced tenants who choose to keep their leases.

Amy Gipson, vice president of marketing and public relations at Stephens College, said Stephens plans on meeting with Brookside early this week to discuss ways Stephens can lend a hand in the housing shortage.

"All I can tell you at this point is we are talking to them about options," Gipson said. "We would like to help them however we can."

Brookside also said students have the option to break their lease due to a clause in the contract that recognizes unforeseeable disasters.

In the wake of the Brookside fire, students whose housing situations were once certain are now facing the reality of changed living expectations.

Andrew Weil, an MU senior, anticipated splitting a four-bedroom apartment with three members of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi at Brookside on College, which contains roughly 100 units ranging in size from 1,113 square feet to 1,771 square feet. Now, he said he'll have to reassess his living situation if he's reassigned to Stephens College housing.

"Are we going to be living in dorms?" Weil said. "Are we going to be living in apartments? The ball is in Brookside's court."

Weil's concern is one of many shared by students whose housing plans were disrupted.

"It's definitely a huge disappointment. We worked really, really hard to find a place we were excited to live," MU senior Kathryn Jankowski said.

Back in December, she and her three roommates signed a lease, complete with a security deposit, in anticipation of the heavy competition surrounding student housing in Columbia.

"It's just unfortunate because it's not like it didn't get built, which is everyone's fear. It's just a natural disaster," she said. The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Construction delays have weighed on the minds of Columbia renters before, particularly last August when some renters with The Grove apartment complex resorted to staying in hotels for up to several weeks while construction was completed.

"I'm going to be a senior, and I was really looking forward to living with my friends. We all lived together freshman year," said Katie Artemas, Jankowski's friend and roommate. "The challenge now is to keep everyone together."

The same sentiment was echoed by Cole Karr, an MU junior who planned on living at Brookside on College with three friends. Currently serving a summer internship in Washington, D.C., Karr said the news broke to him through Twitter updates.

"I know that my apartment burned down, and that's about it," Karr said.

Karr's friend and roommate Casey Carpenter said he's already started the process of apartment hunting.

"As of now I've found a few places to live that have two-bedroom apartments, but there are four of us who want to live together," Carpenter said. He said that in addition to housing, the financial component of off-campus living would again be under question. 

Karr said he and his roommates plan to talk things over via Skype, which Artemas and friends also plan to do.

"Our other roommate is in Spain, so when we get together we're going to Skype with her and figure out a plan," Artemas said.

"I don't think we'll consider living at another Brookside because it was more about the location than the brand name," Artemas said. "Everyone made a monetary sacrifice to live near the J-School and campus."

Missourian reporter Megan LaManna contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Dan Burley.


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