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Sunday, September 23, 2018

City

First Vue residents move in after construction delays


After construction delays displaced 347 UH students from their rooms at The Vue Apartments, an off-campus apartment right across from Bayou Oaks, 95 lucky residents will finally move into their rooms today.

“It’s frustrating because we (were) homeless and (are) in grad school and have plenty of other things to be worrying about other than our housing situation,” said first-year College of Optometry graduate student Cassie Weinberg.

Weinberg is one of 95 students allowed to move in Aug. 28. According to Stacey Lecocke, Senior Vice President of the management company Grand Campus Living, students will be moved into the complex in three phases. Phase one was completed today.

“We are cognizant of the disruption this can cause at the commencement of a new school year and we have diligently worked to reduce the stress associated with the delayed move-in,” Lecocke said.

“I feel like if you’re going to build an apartment solely for students and you know when school starts then you should make an effort to have it on (completed) on time.” -Diana Catuneanu, first-year student in the College of Optometry

Displaced students have been given the option to either live with friends and family until construction finished or stay temporarily at the Wyndham Houston Medical Center Hotel. Students who decided to stay at the Wyndham are given $20 per day for food while those who are staying with family will receive $300 off their first month’s rent. A month’s rent at The Vue can range from $550 to $1,245 a month.

“It’s definitely been reasonable; they are trying to make up for it,” said first-year College of Optometry graduate student Diana Catuneanu, who is also Weinberg’s roommate. “It’s appreciated, but at the same time it’s frustrating. I understand construction (doesn’t) always (go) as planned — especially with the weather, you can’t control it — but I feel like if you’re going to build an apartment solely for students and you know when school starts then you should make an effort to have it on (completed) on time.”

Weinberg and Catuneanu said they’ve driven by the complex several times since they arrived in Houston only to find a scant amount of workers.

“From a business perspective, I feel like if I was the owner and I had to spend about $14,000 a day — we actually did the math — I would just hire extra people,” Catuneanu said.

Trevor Tollett, president and CEO of the development company Fountain Residential sent an official apology to the student residents on Aug. 28.

“I want to offer my sincerest apology for the delays in construction that have inconvenienced you and led to a living situation that is totally inconsistent with the experience we pride ourselves on providing our residents and parents,” Tollett wrote in a press release. “I have been in the student housing business for over 14 years, and have two children of my own who are in college, so I understand firsthand the aggravation and frustration that these delays have caused. Please know that the aggravation and frustration is felt on our end, as well.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, Tollett said that construction delays are not uncommon during this time due to a lack of labor and material.

“Unfortunately, most all construction projects are facing some sort of similar delays (whether it is student housing or not) due to the huge demand for construction that has coincided with this current building boom that the country (in particular, Houston) is experiencing.”

Residents are still angry with The Vue for the delay and mixed messages. Weinberg said the emails she received from Grand Campus about progress of the building were never clear.

“There was just so little communication,” Weinberg said. “I don’t think there’s been a single email that’s been sent out that all of us have gotten. It’s just all over the place.”

Weinberg said she and her roommates were told the construction would be completely finished by Sept. 5. However, Tollett’s press release says that date has changed to Sept. 15.

“The thing that was most frustrating for me was just basically all of the lies,” Weinberg said. “They just aren’t owning up to the lies and mistakes.”

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