Students finding not everything is HERE as semester starts

Students finding not everything is HERE as semester starts

CHAMPAIGN — HERE Champaign, the new luxury high-rise on Green Street, had been billed as bringing a taste of downtown Chicago to Campustown.

However, one week into the school year, some residents say it's not all it's cracked up to be.

Unfinished amenities, unpainted walls and ceilings, exposed wire and no on-site parking are just some of the problems encountered by residents, who moved into the new building at the start of the semester.

The building's gym isn't open. Nor is the fifth-floor outdoor deck with hot tubs and grills. The unfinished ceilings have construction writing on them.

"I guess I had a place to lay my head, but it's not what I was expecting," resident Trent Barron said Tuesday.

Others weren't even able to move into their apartments, instead living for more than a week in hotels, paid for by CA Ventures, the company that owns HERE Champaign.

"Instead of having kids live where we have construction, we put some in hotels for a short stay," said John Druffel, the company's executive vice president for student living.

Because of all the troubles, CA Ventures has given all residents one rent-free month, Druffel said. For the tenants of a four-bed, four-bath penthouse, that's $4,800.

"Obviously, we're not happy it wasn't finished, either," Druffel said. "I think the kids are happy with our response."

Not all of them. Shivam Gupta, a University of Illinois senior and former student senator, wasn't happy with the response, so he started a petition, which he and friends have taken door to door, asking fellow residents to sign.

So far, more than 80 residents have signed up, asking for more to be done — from rent being lowered permanently to another month free. Gupta's goal is 130 residents — or one quarter of the building.

Gupta believes HERE used deceptive marketing practices. He signed an online lease for a fully furnished, two-story duplex after seeing the magnificent, 360-degree view on HERE Champaign's website, which claims "At HERE, every apartment is its very own VIP lounge." It shows fully furnished apartments with painted access walls and finished ceilings, which is not the case in every room.

"I'm backed by 80 people," Gupta said.

The site's most notable amenity was a robotic parking system, which was supposed to carry cars from the loading dock on the first floor up to spots inside of the building — and retrieve vehicles at the wish of residents. However, that system does not work, and the company that supplied it has filed for bankruptcy.

In order for the system to be finished, CA Ventures must go through bankruptcy court, Druffel said.

For the time being, HERE has rented out 80 spots in a city of Champaign parking lot at the corner of Third and Stoughton streets that will be free to residents.

Barron said he didn't want to park in that lot because it was a few blocks from the building.

Instead, Barron said HERE paid for his parking in the new garage at the Marriott Towne Place Suites on Sixth Street. After it became clear the system was a more permanent problem, he said HERE paid for a spot for him at 309 E. Green St. for one semester.

West Quad, the other building owned by CA Ventures, had a much smoother opening, Druffel said. West Quad's pool was closed for a week, but it is now up and running.

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sberanek wrote on September 02, 2015 at 9:09 am

Really?  Why at this point in life is anyone shocked that apartments under construction are not finished?  They sign leases before the building is done and then have no where to live or partially finished apartments.  This same article is written just about every year, just change out the building name/address.

Pro-tip for life: don't sign a lease if the building isn't finished.

Jguth wrote on September 02, 2015 at 9:09 am

Don't lump all apartment companies together.  Local apartment owner/developer, JSM, completed their new building, Campus Center, on time at the corner of Sixth and Green Streets. In fact, every new apartment development JSM has built was completed on time.

mrseeu2 wrote on September 02, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Jguth please don't compare a small 6 story building, planned originally for a 12 story building, but downsized because of financial problems to a significant skyscraper like HERE Champaign.  That's like comparing apples to oranges.  A building of the size and scope of HERE Champaign is naturally going to take longer to build.  This is a magnificent building for the students and for the skyline of Champaign. We need global developers here to make Champaign a global city.  Most local developers set their sites too small and too mundane.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 02, 2015 at 9:09 pm
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Jill Guth is the sales rep at JSM, so you can hardly blame her for defending JSM.

Her assertions are easily investigated, but it's pretty obvious that some local property management companies are better organized than others.


lovettj wrote on September 02, 2015 at 11:09 am

I would think anyone signing a lease for new construction would have a stipulation that there is possibility that it may not finish on time.  There are so many things that can go wrong that are beyond the contractors control, such as weather or third party vendors as Ameren IP, Illinois American Water.  The contractor/landlord offered a month free rent, I would suggest tenants take that.  Amenaties are a PLUS, but not required.  Be happy that you have a clean place to lay your head.  Be patient, trust me.  They want to give you a fabulous place to live.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 02, 2015 at 9:09 pm
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I've been writing columns and articles (and TV news stories: about student rentals since 1992. 

Never, in that time, has anyone suggested that students know what they're getting into when they sign a lease.

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 08, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Twenty three years, and nothing changes.   It is hard to feel sympathy for a student who can afford a $1,200 a month apartment.   They are shorn because they are sheep.  Their money in the bars, rent, social activities helps the county thrive.  Years ago, Kankakee got the state mental asylum and C-U got the university.  Well... I think I got that right....