Ureality
Photo: Dan Xu

The leasing company, University Realty, pushed its move-in date for the sixth time, after telling tenants they would move in by Dec. 1 “at the latest.”

Since mid-August, more than 70 students have been displaced because of construction delays and electricity issues with powering their apartment building located at 4046 Chestnut Street. 

The majority of students have been living in Vue32, an apartment near Drexel University’s campus, since Oct. 21, when most had to move out of the Homewood Suites hotel, located at 4109 Walnut Street, because it reached capacity. Roughly a quarter of the tenants, however, have been able to stay at the hotel. 

Since Nov. 20, six tenants have canceled their leases, leaving at least 64 students displaced.

University Realty Leasing Manager Brian Feller said the company will stop giving tenants an exact move-in date. 

“That obviously hasn’t worked,” he said. 

University Realty works primarily with two other companies on this project: PECO Energy Company, which takes charge of providing electricity to the building, and Turnkey, which is in charge of the physical construction of the apartment blocks. 

In emails to tenants, the real estate company said it was waiting for PECO to finish powering the building, which would be the last step before city inspectors could issue a certificate of occupancy. 

“The minute we have a certificate of occupancy in hand, we will give tenants access to their units immediately,” Feller said.

In a message to tenants dated Nov. 22, University Realty attached a letter from a PECO engineer who said it received the “final approval” to provide electricity to the building, but added that they did not have an approximate move-in date.

Following complaints from tenants that the management had not been transparent with communicating updates on the construction delays, University Realty leaders started attaching letters from PECO and Turnkey in the emails it sends to tenants. 

On Dec. 1, the date that all tenants thought they would be able to move in, the leasing company sent a email informing tenants that it had requested an update from PECO, but had not heard back yet.

Three days later, residents received another email from University Realty explaining that it was still waiting for clearance from PECO, “which should come any day now.” Management said they would be providing tenants the option to help move their belongings if they were not on campus over winter break, as long as it was "packed and ready."

Photo: Camille Rapay

Steven Ryoo, a second-year Penn Dental student currently living at Vue32, said he was not surprised by the sixth pushback of the move-in date.

A Wharton sophomore who wanted to remain anonymous, out of fear of retaliation from the leasing company agreed. "Honestly, I wasn't surprised. They haven't been very frequent with communication."

The sophomore added that he has sent multiple emails in the past few months to University Realty management, few of which had received replies. 

"They're good at selectively replying and ignoring the questions they don't want to answer," he said. "When I ask about compensation, they don't respond." 

And students say the move-in date is not the only promise that the leasing company has faltered on. 

In an email on Nov. 14, University Realty management said they would shut down the shuttle service they originally provided for residents living at Vue32 and instead give every tenant $100 in Uber credit. They have yet to issue the credit or give residents a date they will receive the credit.

While tenants have been paying a reduced rent rate of $650 throughout this semester, Feller said the company plans to charge tenants the original $850 to $1,000 rate on their leases starting in January. 

He added that students who signed later in the year for a higher rate of $950 to $1,000 would have their rent reduced by $50, though there has been no standardized email sent to all tenants informing them of this change. 

Ryoo said he did not agree with this policy because it unfairly disadvantages tenants who signed leases for smaller apartments. 

"It doesn't make sense to me because we're all going through the same thing," he said. 

Wharton senior Hewan Tilahun canceled her lease with the company and moved out of the Homewood Suites on Oct. 19. Since then, she has been living at her parents' house in Philadelphia, which is about 30 minutes away from campus by bus. 

“It was pretty stressful for me to live in the hotel during midterms," Tilahun said. "But I made sure to cancel my lease because I didn’t want to move out during finals week."

It remains to be seen whether the dozens of students apart from Tilahun will get to move in before the semester ends or whether they will have to continue staying at their temporary locations through finals period, and into winter break. 

Ryoo said he considered cancelling his lease, but did not think it was worth it after having waited over 100 days to move in. The aforementioned unnamed Wharton sophomore said he is looking for other places to move into, but added that his decision hinges on when tenants would actually be allowed to move in. 

By Feller's account, the move-in date would “hopefully” be any day this week.

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