High-rise residents happy to be settling into apartments

High-rise residents happy to be settling into apartments

CHAMPAIGN – The pool and fitness center aren't quite finished, the entrance is a construction zone and the lone elevator is finicky – not so fun when you live on the ninth floor or above.

All in all, though, University of Illinois junior Molly Boyd is happy with her new loft-style high-rise at 309 E. Green St.

"Our apartment is really nice," Boyd said of her ninth-floor unit equipped with granite counters, stone-tiled bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. "The only downside is they're still working on the building, so there's construction every day, and it's really loud."

Work continues on Champaign's two new skyscrapers, with one half-open and the other, Burnham 310, still awaiting a partial occupancy permit.

At the 24-story "Whopper" at 309 E. Green, students on lower floors moved in Sept. 5 (floors 9-14) and Sept 12 (floors 15-16), after uncooperative construction weather postponed the original mid-August completion date. Roland Realty found other accommodations for the students and covered their rent, plus a cash stipend.

"I'm just happy to have a place to live finally and have my stuff unpacked," said Boyd.

Construction continues on the upper eight floors, with a goal to finish early January, said Garry Bowman, Champaign's building-safety supervisor. The city approved a partial-occupancy permit for the first 16 floors until then, requiring contractors to have fire alarms and sprinklers working throughout the building (including construction areas), have all building exits open, cover exterior walkways, and pressurize elevator shafts and stairways to keep smoke out, Bowman said.

The steel-and-glass exterior is mostly enclosed, aside from one 18th-floor exposure used for outdoor construction access. The top two levels of the seven-story garage are a construction staging area, but parking is available below that, Bowman said.

Meanwhile, contractors plan to remove the giant crane atop the building later this month. They started to dismantle it last week but had to haul in a new motor by helicopter when the old one failed, Bowman said.

The eighth-floor fitness center and club room aren't finished but should open in about two weeks, said JJ Smith of developer Campus Acquisitions.

"Unfortunately, we have missed the season for the swimming pool, so we will plan on opening that next season when it warms up," Smith wrote in an e-mail.

Both were selling points for students, said UI senior Joe Glenn, who moved in Sept. 12.

"A lot of people wanted to go down and work out," he said.

Glenn is living in a temporary apartment on the 15th floor until his 17th-floor unit is done in November.

"It's really nice," he said, but he's looking forward to settling in his new place.

He said some residents have put together a petition asking for a rent discount because of problems with the elevator, unfinished common areas and sporadic Internet service.

Officials from Roland Realty did not return repeated phone calls from the News-Gazette.

Bowman knows of no safety issues or other problems since students moved in, other than "a few little things" that inevitably need tweaking. Construction crews have been using a separate hoist on the outside of the building to get to the upper floors, he said.

"That was our deal, that we not intermingle contractors and residents," Bowman said.

Boyd loves the location, in the heart of Campustown, and the view north from her open-air balcony is "really great." She and Glenn, however, are still getting used to the unfinished concrete ceilings, complete with construction markings.

"They're telling us it's for an urban look," Boyd said.