Damaged homes force many to move

William Evans

Moving off campus after freshman year can seem like a natural step to take for upperclassmen, but that natural step can backfire when an unpredictable natural disaster strikes everything but the campus in its path of destruction.

The April storms inflicted a 5.9-mile wound on the city students call home, but students living off-campus suffered a more tangible impact to their daily lives when the April 27 tornado demolished apartment complexes and housing traditionally leased to students.

“We observed the greatest impact [to students] with regard to off-campus houses,” said Alicia Browne, associate director for information and communication for housing and residential communities, in an emailed statement. “Off-campus apartment buildings, especially those located further from campus, continued to have vacancies into the late summer, and some have vacancies now.”

The University offered temporary housing in Rose Towers from late April until the end of June free-of-charge for displaced students, faculty and staff.

“These were mostly off-campus students, whose apartments or homes were damaged,” she said. “They needed somewhere to stay while they made other plans or repairs were made.”

Most students who contacted the University for on-campus housing in Rose Towers during the summer because they had nowhere else to stay formerly had housing in Charleston Square managed by Sealy Realty, Cedar Crest Houses managed by H.A. Edwards or Arlington Square managed by Whitworth Real Estate, said Julie Elmore, assistant director for off-campus and greek housing, in an emailed statement.

“The tornado destroyed several apartment complexes that housed mainly students, as well as rental houses in the Forest Lake and Cedar Crest areas, while others were just damaged,” she said. “The rental companies did an excellent job of relocating students who did not leave town, as well as working quickly to make repairs where needed. If a property did not have options for relocating students, they released them from their lease.”

The University was able to find housing for the students who lost their apartments or homes in April.

“Students who contacted our office following the tornado were accommodated on campus, or we were able to assist them in locating alternate off-campus housing,” she said. “There were no challenges in assisting students who contacted our office with locating off-campus housing this summer or this fall.”

The tornado caved in the roofs and blew out the windows of many living units at University Downs on 15th Street.

Nathan Cook, a manager at University Downs, said when compared to the damage suffered by other off-campus sites for student housing, such as Arlington Square’s loss of 70 out of its 80 units, the University Downs endured mostly cosmetic damages.

“We were affected, but not on a large scale,” he said. “The majority of our damage was roofs and broken windows. We were pretty lucky in terms of the scale of damage to some of the places. We were affected on a minor scale, and in terms of how it affected people, most of our residents were fine.”

However, some residents of Regency Oaks, a one-story apartment complex managed by the same company that owns the Downs and lies closer to 15th Street where the tornado swept through, had their leases terminated.

“There were a few units over there that had total roof damage,” he said. “We couldn’t expect them to live there without a roof. They moved out, obviously, and we didn’t hold them to a lease because there was nothing there to hold them to.”