Construction delays leave some ASU students in hotels

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Alexandra Cramer's unfinished house in Boone. (Alexandra Cramer)

BOONE, N.C. — Alexandra Cramer never thought that she would begin her junior year at Appalachian State University living in a Super 8 Motel.

Cramer is one of about 500 Appalachian students living in hotels because The Cottages of Boone, a student housing complex, is not finished yet.

“It’s just unfortunate and inconvenient,” Cramer said. “To me it’s worse than a dorm.… We don’t need to be worrying about all of this. I want to focus on my classes.”

The Cottages are owned by Capstone Collegiate Communities and will be the largest off-campus housing complex in Boone, designed to house almost 900 students, John Vawter Sr., principal of Capstone, said Tuesday.

The project is being privately developed, but is aimed at students and offers one- to five-bedroom apartments with several floor plans and building styles. The complex, which is a few miles from campus, also has such amenities as a sauna, steam room, hot tub, pool and tanning beds, according to its website.

“We have been working on this project for over a year and half and nobody is more disappointed that we didn’t deliver than we are,” Vawter said.

He said that the rainy weather caused delays and cost the company millions.

Joe Furman, director of the Watauga County Planning & Inspections department, said The Cottages failed final inspections on Aug. 10, 13, 15 and 16, thus pushing back students’ move-in dates. “There’ve been times when the inspectors went out and the work just hadn’t been done,” he said.

Furman said the inspectors issued certificates of occupancy for 28 buildings, totaling 249 beds, on Aug. 17. He said inspectors issued certificates to 12 additional buildings Wednesday morning, allowing a total of 305 students to move in.

Furman said the department has been working to schedule inspections while balancing its other work in the county.

“It’s made scheduling difficult these past few weeks,” he said, “And it’s causing the inspectors to have to work some overtime.”

Vawter said he expects the majority of the students in hotels will be moved into The Cottages over the next week and a half, but that a group of students in one building may not have housing for another 60 to 90 days.

Most students already had paid their rent for August. Many students signed an agreement to stay in a hotel at no extra cost and receive a $15 daily credit to be deducted from their rents.

Vawter said The Cottages stopped leasing efforts this summer at 85 percent capacity because the company realized early on that it wouldn’t be able to finish the entire development. Students were notified of all changes by email throughout the process.

“It’s not ideal to be in a hotel but they do have safe comfortable housing with transit services that can take them back and forth to class,” Vawter said.

Cramer, a child development major, was told she could move into a rental with her four other roommates on Aug.15. Her move-in date was pushed back to Aug. 18, but when it was still not complete, the students were moved to the Super 8.

Cramer said the living situation is less than ideal. “We have to cross four lanes of traffic across a main highway to get to the bus and there’s not even a crosswalk. Yesterday after class, I got back at five; I thought I was going to die, it’s impossible to get across the street.”

Cramer was told Wednesday that her rental will be ready at the end of the week.

For other students, like Maggy Boutwell, a junior from High Point, move-in dates are indefinite. Boutwell, who signed the agreement and is currently at the InnPlace Hotel, said no foundation has been laid for her building, just some pipes sticking out of the ground. “I’m still really disappointed because it was supposed to my first out-of-the dorm experience,” she said.

Vawter said he was sorry for the delays. He said cannot give a final date for the completion of The Cottages because it is dependent on the weather.

Tyler Justice, a senior construction major, is living in his rental but said it has many problems, including drainage issues, floor damage and wires hanging from an uncovered breaker box. “The wires are hanging everywhere. It’s not safe,” he said.

Justice’s rental costs him and his roommates about $3,000 a month.

“It’s an expensive place to live, I wanted something nice and that I could be comfortable in, but it’s not,” he said. “This stuff should be done before anyone moves in.”

Credit: The Winston-Salem Journal