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$10 Million In Damage Contributes To UMKC Housing Problems, Says Student Body President

Courtesy Photo
University of Missouri Kansas City
The University will tear down the Oak Place apartments, student housing once touted as luxury dorm life.

University of Missouri-Kansas City students are reacting to Wednesday's news that the university will tear down mold-damaged student apartments once advertised as the best in college dorm life.

"Oak Place was one of the biggest student housing options on campus," said Justice Horn, UMKC student body president. "Hundreds of students have been forced to move off campus into higher-rent apartments. We can’t build an urban campus unless we have adequate student housing."

On Wednesday, University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Mauli Agrawal announced that the university had decided it was cheaper to demolish the Oak Place apartments and retail space at 5050 Oak rather than fix damages caused by water, mold and other issues beginning in 2017.

The university closed the two wings of the apartment complex two years ago due to leaking pipes and damage to floors and walls. Damage to the complex was estimated at $10 million.

The Curators of the University of Missouri are suing numerous companies, including builders JE Dunn, for breach of contract and "gross negligence" in the construction, design engineering and/or inspection of the complex.

In an email to KCUR,  an attorney who is representing JE Dunn said the company "does not comment with respect to legal matters, but denies UMKC’s allegations and is working toward resolving the issues through the ongoing arbitration while the case against the design team is pending."

When the newly built apartments opened in 2008, the university lured students in by advertising their amenities.

"Each apartment offers a living room fully furnished with a brown micro suede sectional sofa, coffee table and entertainment center," according to an article in UMKC Today. "Each suite's kitchen features a dining counter with barstools, dishwasher, refrigerator and stove."

Two years ago, university officials said students being forced to move out would be released from their contracts without penalty, but that the university would not make up the difference if students moved into more expensive housing off campus.  

The university declined to comment on Wednesday regarding how many of the displaced students were able to find campus housing or had moved off campus, or address other disruption to student life because of the housing problems.

The chancellor said he would be commissioning a study to determine the needs of affordable housing as part of a master plan to be presented to the Board of Curators in the fall.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a response from JE Dunn.

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at lauraz@kcur.org

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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