Missoula Mayor John Engen acknowledges that he's heard concerns about a North Carolina-based company that city and University of Montana officials are evaluating as a potential developer to build off-campus student housing.
"I've had two people express concern to me about Campus Crest, indirectly," Engen says.
Since its founding in 2004, Campus Crest has grown fast in the student housing industry. The company now owns a stake in 81 developments with 42,000 beds in 57 different markets.
The company advertises apartment complexes that enable college students a chance to break away from overcrowded dorm rooms and mediocre housing, and it's using that pitch to woo city and UM officials. Both the mayor and UM President Royce Engstom have met with Campus Crest to evaluate whether the company is a good fit to help Missoula fulfill the Quality of Life initiative launched by the city and university in December. The initiative calls for the creation of 1,000 new safe and affordable student housing units in Missoula by 2015.
Locals wonder if Campus Crest fits that directive largely because the company has been criticized for building subpar apartments. Last year, the Bangor Daily News reported that residents at "The Grove," in Orono, Maine, "complained about repeated power outages, frozen water pipes and sprinkler systems, mold and mildew and faulty appliances."
Similarly, a lawsuit filed in July 2012 in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, alleges gross negligence on the part of Campus Crest. The lawsuit stems from a September 2011 incident in which the balcony outside a third-floor Campus Crest apartment in Denton, Texas, collapsed, sending three men tumbling to the ground. The North Texas Daily reports that one of the men was seriously injured.
The company has said that the balcony, which was less than 10 feet long and 9 inches wide, was intended to be ornamental only.
Campus Crest Spokesman Jason Choduba says the company is held to strict building codes and that its top priority is "the safety and security of its residents."
As for Engen, he's toured Campus Crest projects in Moscow, Idaho, Laramie, Wyo., and Fort Collins, Colo., and found them to be "clean" and "compact."