Luxury. Upscale. Five-Star. Unparalleled living experience.
Senior Maria Planzo saw those words plastered all over advertisements for Campus Club, a new apartment complex near 56th Street and Fletcher Avenue, and decided that’s where she wanted to live.
It’s a decision she now regrets.
More than three months after residents were supposed to move in, Campus Club still hasn’t come through on some of the basic amenities it promised, including a security gate and reliable availability of parking. The complex just recently came through on others, such as televisions and security guards.
“It’s just infuriating to know that I could have gone two seconds away, right across the street from here in an already established complex, with everything I needed,” Planzo said.
The so-called luxury comes at a hefty price. At $550 a month per resident for a four-bedroom apartment, Campus Club is one of the most expensive complexes in the USF area.
“Everyone that signed here thought they were getting more than what they could get for a just a little bit more money,” Planzo said. “Everyone thought, ‘Hey, what’s an extra 50 bucks a month when you’re going to get all the luxuries?'”
To make matters worse, residents didn’t move in until Oct. 15. They were supposed to move in Aug. 29, but construction wasn’t finished, forcing them to live in hotels.
Through insurance, Campus Club paid for nearly 150 hotel rooms while construction continued. Residents did not pay rent.
“They had their own room,” Campus Club Property Manager Kirsten Blount said. “They weren’t put out in any way.”
Residents thought otherwise, citing being forced to constantly eat out, a longer commute and the general annoyance of living in a hotel for an extended period of time.
“You’re busy enough,” Planzo said. “It’s hard to be inconvenienced even more.”
Material shortages, caused partly by hurricanes, were mostly responsible for the delay, according to Si Sater, executive vice president of Sierra Construction, the company contracted to construct Campus Club.
“There were shortage problems already,” said Sater, who wasn’t specific on which materials came from hurricane-affected areas. “But the storms worsened the problem.”
Students had the option of opting out of their lease 45 days after they signed it and were warned of a potential construction delay, Blount said.
“Also, when we handed them the keys, they had that option to get all of their money back, and we had a list of places in the area that were still available,” Blount said. “And people still chose to live here.”
But a series of broken dates made the decision to opt out of the contract difficult, Planzo said.
“They kept stringing us along,” she said. “Of course we would have wanted to back out if we knew it was going to continue to get worse and worse. It was the middle of the semester; we were stuck. They can scream at the top of their lungs that we had that option, but in truth we really didn’t.”
Other residents echoed the same sentiment.
“Instead of saying, ‘We need to go back and change the lease, it’s not going to be ready,’ they said, ‘In two weeks, in two weeks,'” said resident Jen Mitchell, who called Marriot Townplace her home for six weeks before moving into Campus Club.
When the residents finally moved in, they found their apartments to be less than ready. Many didn’t have washers or dryers, and the promised flat-screen televisions were missing, among other things.
“That just added to the frustration,” said one resident, a sophomore majoring in business who wished to remain anonymous. “I mean, when we moved in, it looked like a dump.”
As a result, many residents questioned whether they were moved in too quickly.
“It was nowhere near ready; they threw us in because they couldn’t afford to have us in the hotels any longer,” said Mitchell, who said she found nails in her apartment and reported that her plumbing and Internet didn’t work.
Blount said the apartments, minus a few “minor things,” were livable.
“Obviously, if the apartments were in bad condition, we wouldn’t have moved them in,” she said. “But these apartments were beautiful. Yes, their front doors were not painted – God forbid they be white and not green. And their landscaping wasn’t completely finished. You can’t please everybody, which I had to keep tell myself on a regular basis.”
Blount said she and her staff receives countless complaints concerning the condition of the apartments, but brushes them off as rants from immature college students.
“I think the issue is that you have a lot of young adults who have never had an apartment before,” she said. “They’re used to living with mom and dad or in the dorm where they’re constantly supervised. So they’re not really sure how to do things on their own.”
Parking is so tight in the complex that tow trucks have moved cars around the parking lot when the cars are parked in a construction zone. A second residence building, planned to open in January, is under construction.
Blount said another parking lot is being built behind the new building, but that does little to comfort her current residents.
“I’m worried about the second building opening,” said the sophomore business major. “They’re building another lot, but it’s just not going to be enough.”
Residents say the apartments are attractive and spacious, but also say they wished they’d been that way when they moved in.
“It’s slowly getting better,” Mitchell said. “They are finally starting to fix stuff, but you’re not supposed to move into a new apartment with all those things wrong.”