By Jacob M. Abrahamson
Angry parents and students packed into the lobby of The Grove for a town hall meeting to address questions and concerns surrounding the delayed completion of the building.
At the meeting, Angel Herrera, COO for Campus Crest Real Estate Management, The Grove’s parent company, confirmed that residents would receive a refund on one month of rent. Specifics on this refund are said to be released to residents shortly. They also apologized to residents, saying that they had not met their own expectations.
Herrera said that The Grove is meeting with university officials every day in order to solve current issues.
University spokesperson Mark Hebert confirmed this. “They have been meeting with us for everything. From when they might have students moved in, to security.”
Security remains a large concern for residents, as many questions and requests from students came back to safety in and around the building.
David James, of U of L Police, stated that escorts from ULPD will be offered to all students, and mentioned TARC service in the area as a solution to safety concerns to and from campus. In addition, police will patrol the sidewalk along Fourth Street which runs under the train tracks, an area that students expressed concern about. This area will also be painted a lighter color and given more lighting fixtures as soon as approval is granted from the property owner, CSX.
The promised bridge over the railroad tracks to Third Street, proposed as a safer route, will not be finished until next year.
A new security firm, Securitas, has also been hired to secure The Grove. A representative from the company detailed the increased security precautions being taken amid recent crimes in the area. During this portion, a resident was asked by a representative to stop filming with his cell phone in order to prevent a leak to potential security threats.
In addition to a robbery and shooting, another student, Michael Kimble, said that over $100 worth of items were taken from his car in the parking garage on move-in day. He reported the crime, but has not received any information regarding it.
Other students had general complaints about how The Grove dealt with the situation.
“I was misled,” said one resident, speaking of promised amenities which are currently unavailable. “You’re offering things that don’t exist.”
Some residents asked if rent would be lowered beyond the one month refund due to the lack of completion. Herrera had no concrete answer on the rent issue, but said later that a timeline for completion would be made available to residents as soon as it was available to him. Attendees were assured that the proper permits were obtained after an on-site inspection, despite some rooms being uninhabitable upon move in.
One resident asked how The Grove management could be trusted in this meting after the whole experience. Herrera responded that they were “embarrassed” by the situation.
Students also expressed concern about health issues in the room, such as mold and a lack of carbon monoxide detectors. According to The Grove, three rooms were found to have mold and mold experts were on site. Also, a contractor who was in attendance at the meeting said that there were no carbon monoxide detectors in the rooms.
Herrera wrapped up the meeting after fielding questions for approximately 45 minutes. “We’re really ashamed of what has happened,” he said.
Local press was across the street and unable to access the town hall with cameras Herrera that The Grove was cooperating with the local media in answering.
Campus Crest has faced issues in the past with similar properties at the University of Maine, North Texas University, the University of Missouri and currently in Gainesville, Fla. These construction problems have ranged in severity, and have led to legal and administrative woes for the company.