More students displaced by unfinished campus apartment

Students displaced by Prime Place Apartments’ delayed opening scramble to find alternative housing as semester starts.

The Prime Place apartments under construction on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

The Prime Place apartments under construction on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

by Arianna Valenzuela-Zazueta

Construction delays at a new campus-area apartment have left University of Minnesota students scrambling to find housing.

For the second time in a month, management at Prime Place, an under-construction apartment in Stadium Village, notified hundreds of tenants that construction would not finish until December, months after fall classes start. 

Earlier in August, Prime Place management told an initial group of tenants part of the building would not be complete for their move-in. 

University junior Michael Livanos said Prime Place management gave him mixed signals before he learned of his displacement.

“I was notified early August that my unit would not be ready,” Livanos said. “This came as a big surprise for me, because just about a week before I had called Prime Place to ask if my specific unit was going to be ready, and they told me it would be.”

Between 400 and 600 students like Livanos have been impacted by the apartment’s delay, said University Student Legal Service Director Mark Karon.

The number of displaced students is unprecedented, he said. 

“We’ve never had it where a 200-unit apartment building has been totally shut down,” Karon said.

Around 100 students have sought counsel with USLS throughout the situation, he said. 

Management at Prime Place gave the most recent displaced tenants two options for compensation.

In an email from Michael Spare, a Prime Place general manager, management offered to take $50 off rent each day tenants aren’t in their new apartment or continue paying rent and live in a hotel temporarily.  

In early August, the first group of displaced tenants was offered the option to end their lease and get security deposits back, or delay the lease until December and receive a $1,500 bonus. 

While Livanos and his roommates managed to find an alternative apartment, others have not been as fortunate. 

Two weeks ago, University junior Megan Larranaga received notice that she was displaced by the ongoing construction and has yet to find new housing.

“This is causing me a severe amount of stress,“ she said.  “I still am left with nowhere to live, and have nowhere to go.” 

This isn’t the first time the Kansas-based Prime Place, which manages several student apartment complexes nationwide, has had construction issues. Residents previously voiced complaints at apartments in Oklahoma and Nebraska over continued construction.

USLS is evaluating different options to help displaced students in finding comparable living accommodations. 

But legal representatives have struggled to take action because of a difficulty to calculate damages students have incurred, Karon said.

“Prime Place is trying to work with our office as well as the students in trying to address this situation,” he said. 

Blake Franklin, a Prime Place general manager, said he feels bad for the students, and said he and other staff members are working hard to finish construction. 

Prime Place told student legal service representatives the building will be completed by late December, Karon said.

Whether students will still opt to sign on with the apartment, however, is up in the air.

“I think … the question is, how willing are they to help the students this year and come to the aid of those people who have been displaced so that they can rebuild the trust and confidence in the student body for future tenants?” Karon said. 

After dealing with the last-minute displacement, Larranaga said no deal could keep her there. 

“I don’t want to live under a roof of people who are managed by people who aren’t trustworthy,” she said.