Abigail Phelps, a CSDO junior from North Padre Island, found herself starting the fall semester without a place to live.
That was not by choice.
She joins about 180 other new and returning Texas A&M University-Kingsville students who were unable to move into new off-campus housing complex, The Legends at Kingsville, despite a promised Aug. 22 move-in date.
Phelps says she was told construction problems at the much-anticipated apartment complex delayed units for some tenants. She called the situation “unfortunate” and an “inconvenience.”
“I have to drive so far every day and it wastes gas money. It is not an experience I wanted to have this year,” she said.
Phelps says she still plans to move into Legends, but is unsure when that will be. She spent the first week of school driving to and from campus from North Padre Island.
“My parents are very disappointed,” she said. “They don’t feel safe with me on the road all the time.”
Eric Jakimier, founder of Domus Development, the construction contractor responsible for building Legends, blamed weather delays and labor issues for the situation faced by Phelps and other student residents.
“I am deeply embarrassed by the whole situation,” he said. “I’ve been doing student housing since 2002 and never delivered late. There was one project in Virginia but we knew it was late from the very beginning when we started.”
Jakimier said his company typically includes rainfall data when calculating how long a building project will take. South Texas, he said, received an unusually large amount off rain last spring.
“Whenever you do a construction contract, your contractor goes and pulls up historical data on rainfall for that area so that it is factored into the schedule. And if it rains more than that amount of days in the schedule, then they get extra time in their contract,” he explained. “They are claimingalmost two months of rain delays. That bad weather hit us at a critical time when we really needed to get framing started and we couldn’t get onto the site because of all the standing water and mud.”
Adding to those woes were labor problems among subcontractors on the Legends project.
“On top of that the contractors had a horrible time with labor. People don’t show up, they show up and don’t do anything, and that has been a real challenge,” Jakimier said. “We couldn’t get our normal crews to come down and work on site.”
Thomas Martin, TAMUK’s director of student housing, told The South Texan that he and other campus officials are monitoring progress at the new off-campus complex.
He said at least 75 students were offered temporary contracts at Newman Hall, another off-campus housing complex while builders put the finishing touches on Legends. Other students are staying at local hotels and some with friends and family.
“You could drive by and see all of the construction vehicles and tractors stuck in the mud,” Martin said. “Contractors give you their best probability of when something’s gonna be complete. In some ways it’s like what happened with Newman.”
Martin said students moved into Newman temporarily will likely be able to move into Legends by Sept. 19.
“Both Newman and Legends worked up a contract in order to place some students on a two-week contract which will expire on Sept. 19. Residents were sent an email and given an opportunity to pick from two housing options.”
One option included a double occupancy bedroom at Newman starting on Aug. 23 and ending as units become available at Legends.
Students could also choose to stay with friends or relatives, while receiving a rebate on their first month’s rent. Students could also choose to stay in a hotel, but would not receive the same reimbursement.
Houston-based Asset Campus Housing is the company that manages Legends. It was founded in 1998 and boasts of having more than 70,000 beds under its corporate belt, with apartment complexes throughout the United States, according to its website.
Legends is not alone among its holdings to experience delays and business issues affecting student residents; some students have even taken to posting angry online comments about living conditions at other Asset Campus managed properties.
Payam Movahed, a pharmacy doctorial student at TAMUK, created a Facebook page called “The Truth About The Legends at Kingsville” to express his outrage over
“They made me pay a $300 signing fee, and $604 for the first month’s rent (even though we couldn’t move in until the 22nd,” he wrote on the social media site. “But the entire summer many of the staff stated that we would ‘more than likely move in earlier.’ As a pharmacy student we were required to be in Kingsville by [Aug. 2]. So we all had to find our own lodging and Legends of Kingsville offered zero help in financing or crediting our first month’s rent. This cost me an additional $525. So in total, I have spent $1,429 and I haven’t even stayed one night in my apartment.”
Heidi Hunter, property manager at Legends, said she understands how residents could be angry over the delays. She said her staff is working overtime to fix the situation as best they can.
“We do have students who did come to us to talk about what is going on. And after they did, they had a better understanding that it is not our problem as management. That we are trying our best to help with what we can,” she said. “Even my part-time employees are staying till 2 a.m. to help clean up trash. There are some things that are out of our control.”