Officials tour Centre Region student apartment complexes

jvanderk@centredaily.comAugust 15, 2013 

“We’re down to the controlled chaos.”

That’s how Al Pringle, of Keystone Commercial Real Estate, described the scene Wednesday at the site of The Villas at Happy Valley, the new apartment complex between Trout Road and Dreibelbis Street in College Township that will house mostly students, starting in the next week or so. Modular townhouse blocks were pieced together using a crane, and workers scraped cement on a porch.

Pringle, vice president of commercial real estate, served as tour guide for Centre Region officials and staff members at The Villas. The group also received a walking tour of The Retreat on Waupelani Drive, riding by the other student-targeted complexes rushing to the end to come online in time for the start of Penn State classes on Aug. 26. The complexes feature private bedrooms and bathrooms for each tenant, as well as a long list of amenities, including pools, coffee bars, study rooms and fitness centers.

The group, riding a Centre Area Transportation Authority bus around the region, was supposed to receive a walking tour of The Heights, the complex rising in the Turnberry development in Ferguson Township, but regional planner D.J. Liggett said the units weren’t ready.

“They are not ready for prime time or visitors yet,” she said, adding crews were paving the new Havershire Boulevard, which will connect Blue Course Drive and Circleville Road. “They don’t have any units available for us to see.”

Development partner Keith Cooper has said that he expects the complex, fully leased to house 639 tenants, will open on time.

Pringle said some tenants at The Villas could begin moving in Friday, and others on the 26th. The townhouses will open in phases, with the final units coming online by the beginning of September, he said.

“With any luck, everybody disappears in the next few days,” he said of the work crews.

The Villas will house 438 tenants, though it is not yet at full occupancy. Pringle said about two-thirds of those people are undergraduate students and one-third are graduate students or others. The townhouses feature three bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, and are furnished with stuffed couches, flat-screen televisions, beds and desks and living room fireplaces.

The same could be said of The Retreat on Waupelani Drive, ready to house 587 tenants. Members of development team Georgia-based Landmark Properties led officials through the indoor gymnasium and out onto the pool deck, where the hot tub bubbled and deck chairs stood ready. James Whitley, Landmark vice president and chief operating officer, explained the amenities and that his team expects students to keep the development presentable.

“If you break glass on the pool deck, we’ll shut down the pool,” he said, adding the team built it for students to enjoy, as long as they take care of it.

The developer has altered some of the building materials and styles to better stand up to the demands of student tenants. Standing with officials in one of the five-bedroom cottages, Whitley said that, while the units used to have real hardwood floors, Landmark now uses a synthetic material that looks like wood. He said the hardwood was ruined by high-heel shoes and, in one situation, a beer keg and bag of ice left on the floor overnight.

The Grove, the 1,000-bedroom complex on Toftrees Avenue in Patton Township, requires more work than the others to reach completion, and a flatbed truck of sod stood ready at the entrance when the CATA bus full of officials pulled up.

“I understand they’ve had some difficulty getting some of the units complete,” said regional planner Joe Price. The first of two phases will see nine apartment buildings and a clubhouse.

Township Manager Doug Erickson has said developer Campus Crest Communities has assured the township the units will be ready for move-in next week.

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