Students experience mold, flooding at complex

Savannah Bullard, Production Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Hub on Campus Tuscaloosa, or “the Hub,” opened its doors in August 2018 with promises of the convenience of living near campus, but elevated by luxurious living arrangements and top-notch amenities.

The eight-level, 276,700 square-foot complex sits in the shadow of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Red Drew Avenue and houses 187 units. While its Instagram page looks like a promise for a good time – giveaways, catered events, pool parties and the like – students say living at the Hub is not all it seems to be.

LESS THAN LUXURY

“When we first moved in, within…the first week, our apartment flooded,” resident Keith Halberstadt said. “We had leaks from the ceiling out in the kitchen and my bathroom, which is the first one you see when you walk in. Those leaks, we had to live in the unit while they were doing the repairs. Like, gutted ceiling, everything, the whole nine yards, workers in and out, God knows who.”

AJ Spurr, a sophomore majoring in news media and political science, shared a similar experience regarding move-in and the state of his sixth-floor suite.

“When I first arrived to my room, I was met with a lot of construction-related dust on the floors, minor holes in the walls, unset floor panels, water damage on my walls/roof in the bedroom and a Juul pod stuck into a USB wall outlet,” Spurr said in an email.

Spurr said the move-in process wasn’t terrible, but one he “definitely did not enjoy,” as he was disappointed for being sold on a brand new, luxurious living facility that ended up being more like a construction zone.

For resident Kelly Hoffman, the experience was almost identical.

“I know from my mom’s point of view, she was like, ‘We came in, and everything was so dirty,’” Hoffman said. “Like, they had to scrub down my apartment. There was dirt on the floors, dirt on the counter, dust everywhere. They were like, ‘We can’t even put any of your clothes in here or start to move anything in because everything is dirty,’ because it was like a construction zone.”

At this point, Halberstadt, a junior majoring in operations management, and his roommates are well-acquainted with maintenance issues at the Hub. From backward wiring to missing outlet covers and kick plates upon move-in, Halberstadt has not been happy with the Hub from day one. And after dealing with sewage floods and water floods from the amenities next door to their unit, the quality of work being performed at the Hub is questionable.

“If it goes down to one person, they just do the minimal effort and like, to be deemed done per se, and then it’s no longer their issue,” he said. “They’re not going to go above and beyond to recognize the issue before it boils over to something like another flood because, you know, they just don’t care.”

From the very beginning, students say the Hub was simply not ready to be opened. Spencer Baumruk, a sophomore majoring in finance, math and economics, said after he navigated the “carnival” that was the Hub’s move-in process, his room resembled yet another construction site.

“When we got to our room, we noticed a lot of dust on the floor, some scratches and a lot of wet paint marks that were clearly left there and not cleaned,” Baumruk said. “We had two roommates missing shower doors, and a lot of stuff was missing.”

Beyond this, Baumruk said the appliances were not what was promised, the rooms itself were significantly smaller than they anticipated, and the furniture that was included broke several times over the past seven months.  

PERSISTENT PROBLEMS

A major incident occurred when Baumruk and his roommates arrived home at around midnight to find that their key fobs would not unlock their front door. After they requested help from a representative on the 24/7 helpline, they waited over an hour with no assistance.

“And so I called the line again and I said, ‘Hey, do you know if Nathan Cook is on his way?’” Baumruk said. “And the support line said, ‘No, we don’t actually know if they go, we just send a message. So we don’t know if they’ve received it or not.’ So at this point, I imagine if Nathan Cook hasn’t come by now, an hour, he’s never going to come.”

Being on the sixth floor, which is the top floor of the complex, the locked-out residents decided to dangle one of the roommates over the roof of the complex and drop him onto their balcony, which had an unlocked door. Baumruk said Cook, the property manager for the Hub, showed up to assess the locks shortly after everyone got in.

“And then he used his fob a couple times and it didn’t work,” Baumruk said. “Then he tried again, and on the third time it worked, and he said, ‘Oh I don’t really see a problem with the lock. It works fine.’ And we were like, ‘Well, no.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, if it breaks again, you know, we’ll send someone to fix it.’”

The locks weren’t accepting the key fobs three days later. Baumruk said Cook returned, only to say, “Huh, you’re right, the lock isn’t working.”

Seven months later, other issues continued to surface. Halberstadt and his roommates have been displaced at least twice for flooding in their apartment. The Hub covered the bill for their stay at Hotel Capstone while the repairs were being made, but Halberstadt said they were still required to pay rent during their time away.

“We had two showers and two toilets back up with sewage, and it spewed out all over the apartment,” Halberstadt said. “We were displaced for a week. We live right next to the amenities section, and all that water flooded our apartment. And so we were displaced for, I think that was a total of seven or eight days. Total headache, right during midterms.”

Hoffman, a sophomore majoring in marketing, said she also faced many of the issues that her neighbors mentioned upon move in. She has also dealt with sewage flooding her apartment. For her, the deception from the company is what hurts the most.

“I think it was just like, the shock of moving into this luxurious apartment and still seeing construction equipment everywhere, things being unfinished, just like, the dirty look of it all,” Hoffman said. “You’re like, ‘What did I sign up for?’”

LOOKING AT LAWSUITS

Hoffman believes the Hub’s parent company, Core Spaces, should have waited to begin move-in. With problems with maintenance, security, communication and everything in between happening on a consistent basis, she isn’t confident the Hub’s opening should have been approved in the first place.

“I don’t know how those permits could have been given, because when we had our lawyers come through, they were like, ‘There is no way that should have been issued,’” Hoffman said. “Like when you have something like this, like live wires and things, that should not have been allowed to happen.”

A few months ago, an email was sent out to the parents of Hub residents from Humble Law, an employment and consumer attorneys’ office based out of Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Baumruk said lawyers have been collecting individual complaints with plans to sue the city of Tuscaloosa for issuing the permits for the Hub and the Hub’s management for false advertising and fraud. Dozens of students and their parents are participating in the lawsuit.

“They’re just trying to gather as much information and then work with the Hub’s lawyers and the city of Tuscaloosa and just try to get compensation or whatever for everything we’ve been through,” Hoffman said.

Becci Hart, a public relations official for the Hub, acknowledged issues with flooding from the amenities but said they were quickly rectified. She denied the Hub having any security issues – another problem mentioned by residents.

“We acknowledge that there were issues with the property when the students moved in in the fall,” Hart said. “Since that time, we’ve been working tirelessly to address every problem, as the happiness and security of our residents is our top priority.”

Spurr disagreed with the statements issued by Hart, as he mentioned the absence of security guards at multiple posts around the complex one night when he was locked out of his room. Beyond that, two videos have surfaced showing two different men (presumably maintenance workers or Hub staff) entering and poking around a different resident’s bedroom. The evidence was caught on a surveillance camera the resident set up, and it was posted to the Hub parents’ Facebook group. The mother of the resident said she did not know who these men are or why they were looking at the contents of the resident’s desk.

The lawsuit is still ongoing, with members of the Facebook group receiving updates a couple times a week. Attorneys are still gathering data related to impure air, unannounced intrusions, faulty plumbing or electrical work, problems with Hub staff and more. It has not been revealed if residents will receive compensation of any sort for their living conditions.

WORDS OF WARNING

Halberstadt said there is one thing the Hub is good at doing, and that is deceiving its potential residents. He said it is beyond him as to how leases are still being signed for next year, but Halberstadt said the advertising on social media and during tours is nothing but a dupe.

“When we toured the preview unit when we were signing our lease, it was so deceiving in terms of size and luxury,” he said. “When they give people a tour of the building, it’s when like, everything’s just been cleaned, everything’s nice, people are utilizing the amenities and stuff like that. They’re getting such a skewed image of what they’re signing for. And plus they don’t show people the units.”

During he and his roommates’ worst maintenance spells, Halberstadt said there was “total incompetency” between the Hub’s management and the hotels they were staying in. During their most recent displacement two weeks ago, the roommates had to check out of their room three times because of improper bookings.

“When we were flooded out on Thursday, Nathan [Cook], who’s the property manager, told me specifically that we would first be put in the hotel for two days, and then come Friday morning, I had to check out because they said my reservation was only for one night,” Halberstadt said. “And then when I called the front desk, they’re just clueless and they’re like, ‘Oh, just go book the room again.’ Well, now the hotel has no availability.”

Spurr, who was promised VIP luxury in his sixth-floor suite, could not have been more disappointed since he moved in. While he is upset with the way residents have been treated in the past seven months by management, he stressed that the middlemen not be blamed.

“The people up front are very kind and oftentimes have a difficult time answering questions,” Spurr said. “I know they were not involved in the construction of the building and are not associated with the executives. They are often met with angry parents and residents for issues in which they don’t have a say in.”

While Hoffman agreed that office staff often do not have a say in the overarching problems found at the Hub, her frustration over these past seven months has led her to find an alternative living arrangement than the one she has now. In the nick of time, Hoffman’s sorority house has a vacancy with her name on it. But for those considering moving into the Hub, she offers a warning.

“To me, it’s kind of like they’ve been trying to fix a shark attack with Band-Aids,” Hoffman said. “You can’t just keep putting on Band-Aids because they keep on popping off. It’s April, and we had the second floor flood two weeks ago. I know they’re trying to sell it with gift cards and national championship tickets, but I’m not resigning.”

The Crimson White reached out to the Hub’s property manager, Nathan Cook, who declined to comment. Attorneys of Humble Law were unable to comment at the time of publication.