MU students say delays in completing Aspen Heights apartments have left them with a mess

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | 12:36 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — More than 800 tenants have moved into their new apartments at Aspen Heights, but a number say the place is not ready for them.

They claim they are dealing with a slew of problems ranging from loose faucet handles to missing furniture, incomplete paint jobs to lack of TV service.

Construction on the property at 3600 Aspen Heights Parkway was delayed throughout the year by rainy conditions and a limited workforce. Aspen Heights spokesman Stuart Watkins said the project should be finished in four to six weeks.

About 80 residents are still waiting to settle in. Watkins said they were told more than six weeks ago that their apartments would not be finished by the start of the academic semester.

He said the students are being housed temporarily at alternative locations such as the Cottages of Columbia, Brookside, The Grove and hotels around the area.

More than three-quarters of residents of the 972-bed property have been able to move in, Watkins said.

Still, some are complaining about inconveniences they didn't anticipate when they signed their leases.

“After they delayed the move in, there were still issues,” MU sophomore Jenna Baber said. “There is paint on the windows and very noticeable dents in the front door.”

Additionally, Baber said she has not received furniture that was expected to arrive several days ago. According to Aspen Heights' website, furniture can be leased for an additional cost.

“Right now, my mattress is on the floor with no headboard, base, dresser or nightstand,” Baber said.

The disorganization also came as a surprise to Talyn Sands, a junior at MU.

“I wasn’t expecting the whole mess,” she said. “It still doesn’t have cable or Internet. I expected everything to be done.”

According to Watkins, maintenance and construction teams prioritize the requests.

“It’s a new home, and we’re in the process of addressing specific issues that are construction-related,” he said.

“When (the tenants) get there, they get an official punch list, so whenever we give them their keys, they can list any defects on a spreadsheet for maintenance to fix.”

For some tenants, the difficulties extend beyond aesthetics and amenities. Sophia Silva, an MU junior, said she is concerned about the safety of her new apartment.

“The fact that my door doesn’t work makes me angry,” she said. “I have to leave it unlocked and risk someone coming in.”

Watkins said the electronic keys can quickly be re-programmed and a 24-hour security company will oversee the property until the gates are fully operational.

Silva said despite her constant pleas for repairs, she has been repeatedly deferred.

“They never apologized, they never said sorry,” she said. “Every time they always put it on someone else and constantly giving you another number to call. I regret signing here every day.”

According to its website, the company was founded in 2006 "with the vision of revolutionizing student living."

After conducting focus groups with 4,000 college students, the company "created a product centered around being a house and not an apartment, world-class customer service and a company surrounding global impact."

Aspen Heights has developments in nine communities, mostly college towns, including Athens, Ga., Auburn, Ala., San Antonio, Texas, and Stillwater, Okla.

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Kevin Gamble August 21, 2013 | 1:32 p.m.

Is anyone surprised?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield August 21, 2013 | 3:30 p.m.

I'm not, Kevin. Anybody who was there in the spring -- including prospective tenants -- could have seen how difficult it would be to finish most units, let alone every one, by mid-August.

(Report Comment)

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