Going the extra mile for University Village

As you may have already heard, something seems to have gone wrong at University Village – again. The much anticipated student apartments – the first new university housing in over forty years – have been beset by delays virtually since conception.

Originally meant for development in the early 1990’s, Hurricane Andrew’s devastation effectively tanked the project for over a decade. When it finally became feasible again, it faced a more pernicious obstacle – city politics. As many long-time residents will tell you, there’s slow and stubborn… and then there’s the Coral Gables City Commission. This obstacle surmounted, Hurricane Wilma caused extensive damage to Miami’s infrastructure, which combined with the normal economic growth of the area created a tremendous construction boom.

This may seem like a good thing, especially if you’re a construction worker, but as a consequence there has been an inability to keep workers on the job more than a few days at a time resulting in construction projects that experience slow downs, delays, and periodic work stoppages. Such is the case with University Village. Even UM’s effort to bring workers in from out of state hasn’t alleviated this trend – those workers end up leaving as well. Because of these delays, the Coral Gables City Commission won’t issue a Certificate of Occupancy until several areas around the completed buildings – such as the parking garages – are themselves completed.

Many people have been inclined to blame UM for this problem. To do so is not only unfair but completely unwarranted. UM has, while endeavoring through this effort in completely good faith, been confronted by obstacle after obstacle, all beyond its control. Instead of giving up on what has now become an extremely expensive and time-intensive journey of stress, they have been fighting to get it done since before I got here, and I’m now in my fifth year.

The administration has gone above and beyond the call of duty at every level. Since it was determined that all buildings would be delayed, the university went into overdrive to take care of everyone affected. In addition to housing students at the Holiday Inn, residents are being housed at two hotels in the Grove, the Dadeland Marriott, and even the Biltmore. Many hotel amenities have been arranged to be provided for free or at a significant discount. In addition, the university has added many additional shuttles and charter buses to get students back and forth.

While this hasn’t been completely flawless, UM has monitors at each hotel to report on shuttle usage and if they’re arriving on time and at the frequency advertised. If that wasn’t enough, students have been given free meal plans or dining dollars to purchase food anywhere on campus that sells it .

While other universities would have provided the minimum – Motel 6 or something similar and no amenities – UM has once again gone above and beyond the call in taking care of what is most important – you, the students.

Scott Wacholtz is a grad student concentrating in Middle Eastern History. He may be contacted at s.wacholtz@umiami.edu.