By George Tatoris Sports Assistant
Cold bedrooms, flooded bathrooms and jackhammer alarm clocks: three unmentioned features of the Campus Town apartments, which an nj.com article from August 19, 2015, described as “luxury apartment living.”
For a semester and a half, the 446 student residents of Campus Town have been turning the brand-new apartments into a home away from home.
“When they first released the floor plans for the apartments, I kind of knew what I was getting — full kitchen, my own bedroom and sink, bathroom I share with only one person,” junior interactive multimedia major Michael Lore said.
However, some students are encountering small problems they didn’t expect so soon after Campus Town’s inauguration.
When junior interactive multimedia major Angela Arguson moved into Building 2 in August, she expected, like most residents, “really nice housing, since it was brand new and because there was so much talk about it,” Arguson said.
Her new apartment met most of her expectations, but there was a rocky start. During the first week, there was confusion about her room assignment that led her to not have a key, she said.
Arguson also discovered that her bedroom, located above a drafty walkway, is much colder than the rest of the apartment. This issue has still not been resolved.
Arguson isn’t the only student experiencing problems with Campus Town.
Multiple apartments had to have their bathtubs re-caulked. Lore’s was re-caulked several times.
At the start of the semester, several apartments were outfitted with handicapped showers that flooded the bathroom when used.
The showers were designed to allow access for the wheelchair-bound. There is only a drain and a small, rubber lip separating the shower from the rest of the bathroom, according to Greg Lentine, vice president of Sales and Marketing at the PRC Group, Campus Town’s developer.
However, in some showers, the lip was removed or never installed, resulting in flooding. This lasted for about a month.
In Building 700, above the new gym, junior philosophy major Alina Ahsan and her roommates were told by a maintenance worker they were not allowed to use one of their bathtubs. Apparently, it was leaking into the gym below.
Ahsan and her three roommates were told they could only use one shower until the leak was fixed.
They said it would only be a week, but it went on for about a month, according to Ahsan, during which time Ahsan and her roommates received no word from management.
“A month later, no one had come to fix it and we were pretty annoyed because we’d been sharing a bathroom between the four of us,” Ahsan said.
Frustrated by the lack of communication, they started to use the leaking shower again, which was fixed shortly after.
Lentine said that it “could take some time” to find a leak because it could be coming from anywhere in the pipe system.
In a similar miscommunication, junior criminology major Samantha Kennedy and her roommates had to wait a month for their washer to be fixed.
“Without a washing machine in our apartment, we had to drag all of our clothes to our friend’s apartment who lives in a different building,” Kennedy said. “It was incredibly inconvenient.”
The broken washers were a manufacturer problem affecting a small number of apartments, according to Lentine. In response, Campus Town bought new washers and will be using different models in the new buildings.
“We actually went out and bought additional ones so they could be swapped out fast,” Lentine said. “It took a little time to figure out what was wrong with them.”
Out of 130 washers, only “three or four” broke, Lentine said.
Campus Town is aware of the problems facing residents, Lentine said, but the number of problems is very small in comparison to the number of people living there.
Residents were asked if they liked living in Campus Town via a survey sent in November and December.
“Overwhelmingly, everyone’s happy,” Lentine said of the results.
One of the biggest problems for students who answered Campus Town’s survey was slow response times to issues like Ahsan’s and Kennedy’s. To address this, Lentine said Campus Town is hiring a new manager.
In spite of these problems, Kennedy, as well as Ahsan, Lore and Arguson, are all pleased with what Campus Town has to offer.
“The apartment itself has definitely lived up to expectations,” Ahsan said. “The bedrooms are a great size, the semi-private bathrooms with the sinks outside are great and I love the kitchen with the dishwasher.”
Lore said that the apartments are “definitely nicer” than campus housing.
As interactive multimedia majors, Lore and Arguson have an added bonus: the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM) is located just across the street.
“I can roll out of bed and get to (AIMM), so that’s a plus,” Arguson said.
Arguson was forgiving of the issues she has had at the still-evolving Campus Town.
“I didn’t expect everything to be 100 percent perfect,” Arguson said. “Most of the issues have been resolved and Campus Town is still improving.”
That improvement can be seen as a canopy of cranes overhead erecting new buildings just down the road. Since late January, two new restaurants — Panera Bread and Piccolo Pronto, the faster cousin of the beloved Ewing establishment Piccolo Trattoria — opened to the general public.
Two more buildings will add 166 beds to Campus Town and bring the total number to 612 by the Fall 2017 semester.
The construction will ideally make students like Lore, who were disappointed by the lack of retail and restaurants when Campus Town first opened, happy.
“I thought that more restaurants would be open by now,” Lore said. “It kind of seemed that the management were hinting at a lot of places opening up in the fall semester or when the spring began, but only a few have opened so far.”
Though disappointed initially, Lore noted his excitement for the new retailers, as did Kennedy.
“I love my apartment and several stores and restaurants are beginning to open up in the buildings, which makes the campus town experience that much more enjoyable,” Kennedy said.
For Lore and Kennedy, the construction offers a glimpse at what Campus Town will become. But for others, the construction is just another nuisance.
At Campus Town, students on their way to class cross paths with construction workers regularly.
“There was a lot more construction going on than I expected,” said junior interactive multimedia major Kathleen Fox, who has been woken up “obnoxiously” by construction at odd hours.
Lentine said housing students was more essential than making sure all the retail was fully constructed.
“If they didn’t have a coffee shop, that wouldn’t be a crisis,” Lentine said.
Construction is not allowed to start until 8 a.m. in Campus Town, according to Lentine, which is a special provision on the project. Normal construction projects in Ewing are allowed to start earlier, but Campus Town delayed construction with the students in mind.
“Truth is, (Campus Town is) still a construction site,” Lentine said. “And until everything (is completed), unfortunately, construction’s going to make some noise.”
Opening stores and restaurants is part of the second phase of construction, according to Lentine. He said they hope to draw consumers during school breaks. As of now, retail slows when campus closes.
Like Lore, Lentine also expressed dissatisfaction with the speed at which retail has been opening.
“We were hoping more retail would be open by now, too,” Lentine said.
In addition to new stores opening up, residents will see the price for rent go up next year from $5,462 per semester in four-bedroom apartments to $5,655.
The two- and one-bedroom apartments cost quite a bit more. This year, two-bedroom apartments go for $6,003 per semester and the one-bedroom, $6,544. Next year, those prices will rise to $6,215 and $6,810 per semester, respectively.
The rise in price was written into Campus Town’s pro forma — a business document that forecasts prices.
“Supply and demand” was also a big issue according to Lentine — almost all the spots in Campus Town are taken, so the price increases. Inflation on costs for labor and materials were also included in the increase.
“We believe our product is worth it,” Lentine said.
Lore was forgiving of the price.
“When they said what the price was going to be, I was a little surprised that it was so steep, but hey, it’s new, it’s fancy, whatever,” Lore said.
The only cheaper options than living in Campus Town for those looking to live in an apartment setting are Hausdoerffer and Phelps halls, off-campus college houses and living off campus entirely.
“I only have limited experience with the upperclassmen campus housing since I’ve never lived in them, only visited, but from what I’ve seen, Campus Town is definitely nicer,” Lore said. “Of course, you get what you pay for.”
Many students seem to think what they get is worth it. Not Fox.
“Campus Town’s cost is almost as much as a monthly mortgage or as much as my aunt’s apartment in Brooklyn each month. It’s obscene. We’re college students. It shouldn’t cost that much,” said Fox, who will be living in an off-campus apartment next semester.
Fox is among a minority of students that will not be returning next year.
Between the management hiccups and the construction, Campus Town is trying to find its sea legs.
Lentine said that given the number of students that live there, they’ve received few complaints. They have also addressed some issues. Originally, all parking in Campus Town was for retail. They have since relaxed that rule, installing 15-minute loading and unloading parking outside the buildings.
In addition, the stairwells, which were once only fire exits, now have scanners to allow students in with their access fobs.
“Things come up and you try and address them the best you can,” Lentine said.