Closure of towers leaves questions
The looming closure of the Christiana Towers, the twin 17-story dormitories on the University of Delaware’s north campus, has sparked concern over where to house students and why the buildings are closing early.
UD’s decision last month to close the nearly 50-year-old buildings about four years earlier than planned irritated city council because of the displacement of nearly 1,300 students.
The university argued it would partially mitigate the loss of beds through the acquisition of the University Courtyard, a private apartment complex off
Delaware Avenue, in July 2019. Construction of a new dorm on South College Avenue will be completed in 2023/2024, which is also intended to recuperate lost beds.
However, UD’s acquisition of the Courtyard is not adding to the supply of student housing in Newark; it is simply taking beds that were privately managed and bringing them under UD control.
“Is this the new math I’m not familiar with? How does that work?” Councilman Jerry Clifton asked at a council meeting last week.
Caitlin Olsen, UD liaison to the city, conceded that point when questioned by council.
“It’s not a net gain because we’re just moving people in a circle,” Olsen acknowledged. “I know this is a stress. I’m going to work on it for you.”
For students at the university, the closure came as a surprise as well. When the university announced the closure, officials said they would assist the students who hoped to live in the towers next year.
“Residential Life and Housing is working with students who indicated a preference for apartment-style spaces to identify other on-campus spaces or off-campus apartment options in the community, with many alternatives that are on UD shuttle lines,” said Peter Kerwin, a spokesman for the university.
Finding a place to live has proved difficult for some, however.
“I didn’t have an issue with the towers closing because I think they need to be closed anyway because they’re so old,” student Sam Lee said. “But I just wish they gave us like sooner notice. There was rumors that they were closing at the end of this year, but then they said they won’t be closed until 2023-2024, and they tell us it’s going to be closing this year like two weeks ago.”
While she has found a possible housing off campus, she still has to tour the place and sign the lease.
“It’s just like kind of hard because all the good places, like the really, really cheap places, have already been taken because it’s so late in the game,” she noted.
Most students start lining up next year’s housing in October, and some even spent several nights camped outside of Lang Development Group’s leasing office to ensure they would get their choice of apartments.
Kiera Johnson said she has liked living in the towers and was considering returning next year or getting an apartment at the University Courtyard. Looking ahead to next year, there’s some uncertainty.
“I just don’t know yet if I’’m going to be in the dorms again instead of apartmentstyle because there’s not enough room in the Courtyards, so we just don’t know yet,” she said.
The closure also put Eric Siverson in a difficult position.
“Well, where do I go from here?” he said. “I can’t afford off-campus living because it’s too expensive. So I’m just looking at other places right now.”
The condition of the towers is poor, some students noted.
Lee said her room was flooded because of an air conditioning vent, and Bryanna Lisiewski said the floor above her was leaking some sort of liquid. She said that facilities staff didn’t tell her what it was, but cleaned it up and
told her to keep an eye on it and gave her a cleaning spray to use.
Dana Burnejko described conditions as “a little rough,” noting that at least one of the elevators in her tower is almost always broken, but said that she did love aspects about the towers.
Jackie Fitzula considers the towers, and their condition, a stepping stone after living in James Smith Hall, a traditional dorm, last year.
“I feel like it’s part of the college process,” she said, adding that she has had issues with getting hot water.
With the closure also came the concern of mold. Emails sent to residents of the East Tower indicated that humidity was a pressing concern and required the use of dehumidifiers to combat mold growth.
In October, the issues continued.
“There’s been like a few kids on my floor who have had mold. So I know that it’s a big problem,” Burnejko, a resident assistant in the tower, said. “The facilities [staff] are really nice and will wash their clothes, or wash whatever has to be fixed.”
Lisiewski noted there was white mold on the carpet and chairs throughout the East Tower.
“Especially like a month ago, it was at its worst point,” she said, noting that facilities installed the dehumidifiers around that time. She said she has mold growth under one of her rugs.
Kerwin, the UD spokesman, said that the towers
don’t pose a health threat to students or staff.
“Any situations that have arisen have been addressed promptly by staff from Residence Life & Housing, Facilities Maintenance & Operations and the UD Office of Environmental Health and Safety,” he said. “Staff from those units continue to work regularly to address any relevant issues to the university’s housing facilities, as well as safety considerations pertaining to all existing and future housing arrangements for our campus community.”
He added that several students were displaced for a few hours for remediation work, and that was “one instance where students were temporarily relocated for four days due to that work, but there were no instances of students being required to move out on a permanent basis.”
Even with the concerns, some students were nostalgic for the buildings.
“I’ll miss them; I’ll missing living up high off the ground,” Burnejko said.
The Christiana Towers, two 17-story apartment-style dormitories on UD’s Laird Campus, were scheduled for demolition in 2023 or 2024 following the construction of a new residence hall on South College Avenue, but the university announced last month the dorms will close at the end of this academic year.