Durham, UNH apartments compete for business

Bret Belden

By Charlie Weinmann, Arts Editor

With major evolutions changing the look and feel of Durham, students of the University of New Hampshire are being introduced to an array of new housing options. Off-campus housing companies along with the UNH housing office are showing their best face in order to convince students to move into their apartments.

According to Brian Smart, a senior math major, moving to the Lodges was a move in the right direction.

“It’s a much better living area,” Smart said.

Having a parking spot at the Lodges is a major amenity for Smart.

Despite the recent interior updates for UNH on-campus apartments, Smart wasn’t sure when they would actually be completed when he made the switch.

“With an off-campus apartment, you get that sense of independence,” said Cayla Voegtlin, the leasing manager for University Downtown.

Voegtlin has been a property manager in Durham for three years and is familiar with the interworking of Durham housing situations. She said that tenants are often drawn off campus for the location — at least with University Downtown — being right in the middle of downtown Durham. Voegtlin was involved in the entire building process of the Madbury Road complex (above Froyo World). 

“I know the heart and soul of this building,” Voegtlin said.

There appears to be a close relationship between owner and renter at Madbury Road. Voegtlin said that when one of her maintenance crew became ill, students living in the building were expressing their concern for him.

“We like to use the term ‘home away from home,’” Voegtlin said.

She noted that every little detail in the apartments is important when it comes to the comfort and happiness of the tenants, even if it means replacing a light bulb now and then.

“If changing a light bulb makes life easier for them, then that’s what we will do,” Voegtlin said.

When asked about how she felt about her competition, Voegtlin shared her humble point of view.

“I can’t sit here and say that our business isn’t affected, but I am more in tune with what we have going here,” she said, referring to University Downtown. “We strive to grow a community rather than a business.”

Sam Wong, a junior recreation management and policy major, spent his summer working for the Lodges as a leasing consultant. Wong’s job was to market the Lodges to prospective tenants. Wong lived on campus for his first two years of college but then decided he wanted something more independent.

“I wanted my bedroom, and I didn’t want to deal with [residents assistants] or [community assistants],” Wong said. “It’s cool to have our own community of just college kids. And I don’t have to wear flip flops in the shower anymore.”

When asked if he had received any negative feedback about the new establishment, location seemed to be the biggest issue.

“People complain about the buses running right behind each other if they are trying to get to the bars or something,” Wong said.

Students seem to be choosing their housing options for similar reasons, given that different types of housing have their benefits.

Voegtlin is the manager of just one off-campus housing option, while there remain several other establishments that are also popular among students. And with so many off campus choices, university-owned options had to keep up.

Celia Zampitella is a sophomore communications major living in the Gables apartments. When making her housing decision, she felt that living in an on-campus apartment as an undergraduate would allow for a larger sense of community.

“It’s more of a community here, and it’s not separated by different houses,” Zampitella said. “I can make more friends as a sophomore by living here.”

She also enjoys the accessibility of the bus system, making it easy to get to campus. Despite her current choice to live in the Gables, Zampitella is considering moving to an off-campus apartment complex for her junior year.

“As a junior, you are more responsible and live on your own. You get your own bedroom,” Zampitella said. “Madbury Commons seems really cool and nice, and it’s convenient, but I hear rooms [will be] hard to get.”

UNH housing has invested in necessary physical alterations and policy changes for on-campus living situations over the past few years. One such policy change is the “call dibs” policy, which allows students to sign up for on-campus apartments at an earlier date than of previous years. Beginning Sept. 24, current residents of the Gables and Woodside apartments were able to claim a spot for next year. On Oct. 13, all other students were able to sign up for a spot. The UNH housing department’s small flyers could be spotted on tables in Holloway Commons that read, “College life happens on campus. Why live anywhere else?”

Complex Manager for the Gables Victoria Wilson attended UNH for grad school and is a firm believer in this statement.

“I lived on campus every opportunity I had,” Wilson said. “I became involved with lots of programs [by living on campus]. College life happens on campus. I think students get a sense of safety, and they get a real sense of the college experience.”

Assistant director for apartment living Michael Saputo said that they haven’t seen an impact on occupancy since the addition of new off-campus housing. Saputo added that the new competition has increased overall awareness within the UNH housing department.

“It’s made us become a better housing office,” Saputo said.

With the addition of dishwashers, updated modern kitchen appliances, new bathrooms and new carpeting and paint for the Gables and Woodside apartments, UNH housing has more to offer to perspective tenants.

Saputo added that it only took 68 days to complete renovations in Gables A, B and C towers, noting the hard work and dedicated staff it took to make it all possible.

In the housing department’s annual satisfaction survey for on-campus apartments, there was a reported 98 percent positive “feel safe” response and a 93 percent “recommendation” response.

With on-campus apartment options, students are able to utilize their CA for things like maintenance issues or any other concerns that may arise.

“We want to be very responsive landlords,” Saputo said.

Joe Corey, a junior environmental science major, lives in the Woodside apartments. Like many others, he lived on campus as an undergrad and decided to move to an on-campus apartment.

“I like the location of the Woodsides,” Corey said because it’s “not too far away” from the main campus.

Corey mentioned that living in UNH housing wouldn’t mean having to pay a monthly bill.

The Woodsides are way nicer than some off-campus apartments,” Corey said. “UNH does a nice job of keeping the housing clean.”