ITHACA, N.Y. — Maplewood is a very large project and was to be delivered on a very tight schedule – too tight, it seems. Delays in the delivery of part of Cornell University and EdR Trust’s new graduate housing complex will force 106 students to find alternative housing for the start of the fall semester.
The problems with Maplewood’s build-out have been well documented. The project team has been granted multiple extensions on the days and hours allowed for construction as a result of an unusually wet construction season during 2017. These weather delays also led some subcontractors to discontinue their work on Maplewood and take construction jobs elsewhere, to satisfy their crews’ need for five full paid days a week, something they are entitled to as part of their contract with the general manager, LeChase Construction.
As of last December, the project was reported to be 25 days behind schedule. A contentious debate with the Town of Ithaca last spring granted another work extension but also revealed the project would have to open in three phases from July into August, right as the academic semester begins.
The 106 students who will be displaced by the delay are all in the same building. That number matches the number of bedrooms that will be located in one of the larger apartment buildings, Building E at the corner of Maple Avenue and Veteran’s Way.
“We took steps to accelerate the construction with LeChase using our checkbook, and we were hopeful we’d be able to catch up, and by the end of June, particularly July 3, we learned one of the buildings wouldn’t be delivered in time. It became evident it would be delivered late, as much as four to six weeks late. We’ll do everything we can to shorten that,” said Tom Trubiana, President and Director of EdR Trust.
Students have been given a number of options regarding the housing delay.
For those who choose to live in short-term stays elsewhere like an AirBnb or crash on a friend’s couch, they’ll be given a $200 MasterCard gift card for meals, transportation costs and incidentals for each day starting Aug. 20 until the day the building is certified for occupancy and move-ins can commence.
EdR will also reserve a hotel to lodge students, and those individuals will be given $100 MasterCard gift cards per day to cover their expenses, along with EdR picking up the tab on hotel accommodations. However, students who choose this option will still be on the hook to pay rent while they’re staying in the EdR-provided hotel. Students have also been given the chance to cancel leases without penalty and get a refund on deposits and fees.
According to Trubiana, the project team realized that some of the townhouses would be delayed, and since they wouldn’t be ready in August they held off from marketing and renting out those beds.
“The whole community when it’s done will house 872. We didn’t market 112 beds for occupancy because we knew they wouldn’t be ready until later, they’ll be ready in September or early October. The community is 100 percent leased for that which we knew we would be able to deliver. We thought we were going to have those 760 beds complete, and it became abundantly clear that one building would not make it. We’ll make sure there’s no other slippage.”
“We’re trying to minimize the inconvenience, we felt the need to be fair to them and compensate them. We felt the need to respond as quickly as possible to give students choices and options. We’ve worked with folks at Cornell the past couple of days to have a plan to do the right thing by the students. In the 54-year history of our business, this is only the second time this has ever happened. ”
While this may be an unfamiliar experience for EdR, it’s not for Ithaca. There have been multiple instances in the past several years of student-oriented housing not opening on time for the new academic year. Dozens of students had to make do with temporary accomodations two years ago with the delayed openings of the Collegetown Eddy Apartments and Dryden South Apartments in Collegetown, and 201 College Avenue had to rushed to completion last year, with some commons spaces yet to be finished as tenants moved in.
Clarification: Students who choose to stay at the hotel will still have to pay rent. Only those who pay for their own alternative housing will be pro-rated on their rent. The Voice regrets the confusion.