Availability of luxury apartments attracts students

Luxury apartments' branding is key in attracting younger students.

They’ve been advertising on buses, handing out free tickets to football games and plastering their names all around MU.

With strong advertising and a strong social media presence, Aspen Heights, The Domain at Columbia and the Lofts on 308 Ninth have constructed brands for themselves even before their walls are up.

Aspen Heights advertises itself as the anti-apartment living option, promising a neighborhood of Colorado-style homes. The idea has been popular among students, attracting more than 9,700 “likes” on Facebook.

“I’ve met people from Aspen Heights at events and they seem really nice,” freshman Jennifer Galemmo, a future Aspen Heights resident, said. “(My future roommates and I) like the community out there and the neighborhood.”

The Domain has also attracted many students with its pool, gym and granite countertops.

“It seems really comfortable,” sophomore Caitlin Poltzer said. “I can have my own big bed, pool, workout center.”

Like Aspen Heights, The Domain has had a strong advertising campaign. The housing complex gave away food, tickets to MU football games and a new MacBook Air.

The promotional campaigns attracted students like Poltzer, who currently lives in University Place Apartments. Poltzer said she and one of her three future roommates walked into The Domain office and were hooked.

“I saw the floor plan and they just sold us,” she said.

Poltzer said The Domain seems nicer than her current apartment at UPA.

“The space at (UPA) is very big but really drab and boring and not constructed well,” Poltzer said. “You can hear through the walls. It’s not my cup of tea.”

The perceived problems with lower-cost housing drove other students to choose luxury housing despite their increased cost. When looking for apartments, freshman Shelby Sonnefeldt said she was discouraged by the rundown look of some of the more affordable housing she viewed.

“We didn’t want to pay too crazy but the (apartments and homes) that didn’t have bad rates weren’t the ones you wanted to live in,” Sonnefeldt said. “(At UPA), the price is good but it smells gross, the lighting is bad and the room is small.”

Galemmo said safety was a concern of hers.

“(My friends and I) looked at houses on College Ave.,” she said. “They’re not that expensive, but they don’t feel like they’re very safe. With four girls living together, it’s nice to know (Aspen Heights) is a safe community.”

Although students are excited about their new luxury apartments, the higher rent has ramifications beyond the residents’ bank accounts.

MU graduate Eric Woods was president of the Missouri Students Association when the Columbia City Council voted in favor of rezoning the Regency Mobile Home Park to use the land for Aspen Heights in November 2011.

MSA fought against the rezoning because it took land from many people who were elderly or disabled and many of the trailers couldn’t be moved, according to a previous Maneater article.

“So many of those places are just popping up, “ Woods said. “Most, if not all, are owned by out-of-town developers who are not as attentive to the needs of tenants as they should be.”

Woods said he had firsthand experience with a luxury housing complex. He recalled its poor management, cheap quality and unexpected expenses.

After that year, Woods said he moved to a house on East Campus.

“I would take my little run-down house I paid a third for over my luxury apartment any day,” he said.

These cheaper places are more difficult to find because they cannot afford to advertise on buses and give out free stuff, Woods said. Luxury houses are also becoming more common because they make large profits.

“The priority should be affordable housing for students, but the reality is, these out-of-town companies that market to college towns make more money with the luxury model,” Woods said.

Sophomore and Maneater columnist Anthony Agbabiaka lives in an independent duplex off Rock Quarry Road. He said he is concerned with how the luxury housing complexes will affect Columbia.

“Part of the draw of Columbia is that it’s supposed to be a small town with a big city feel … but when you have large complexes … it takes away that small town feel and it’s really just trying to prey on students who wouldn’t necessarily know any different,” Agbabiaka said.

Agbabiaka referenced the proposed demolition of the historical Niedermeyer house, the oldest building in Columbia, which could become a high-rise student housing development if its proposed demolition is approved by City Council.

“When they’re trying to tear down the Niedermeyer house to build more high rises, you just have to think what is more important: more affordable housing that also retains the history of Columbia or having a million overpriced high rises everywhere?” Agbabiaka said.

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