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PARKED 7: CoMo Councilman's student apartment developer questions help city dodge bullet

Past history predicts future performance 

COLUMBIA, Mo 5/6/15 (Beat Byte)
--  A Columbia City Councilman's questions Monday about the reputation of a New York City-based student apartment developer were prescient. 

Michael Trapp, who represents the Second Ward, repeatedly asked representatives of Park7 Group if their firm had a Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and how they responded to complaints he received about them.  

Another student apartment developer founded by Park7 CEO Ron Gatehouse -- Copper Beech Townhomes -- faced renter and community complaints
about shoddy construction, unruly residents, safety violations, and other issues during and after Gatehouse's tenure  Student tenants banded together, threatening to withhold rent or pursue legal action, including at Copper Beech Columbia on Old Highway 63. 

Council members voted down Park7's student apartment proposal with a 6-1 supermajority.   Mizzou students testified about sloppy construction, poor customer service, and overpriced rents in other so-called "luxury" student apartments. 

Mr. Trapp sought indications future complaints might be in the offing should Park7 get Council approval, to rezone a large tract of east Columbia land from agricultural use to high-density residential.   

"Not sure" of Park7's BBB standing, Gatehouse told Council members he received a recent letter of praise, but that complaints were part of doing business.  

In at least one community, Copper Beech had a poor BBB standing while Gatehouse was at the helm,
KOMU reported.   "In central Indiana, the Better Business Bureau rated Copper Beech 'unsatisfactory' because the company has at least four formal complaints about units near Purdue University." 

"Not enough heat. Too much heat. Stairs breaking apart. Mold," the Chronicle News Service reported in 2007, about Copper Beech
student housing in Allendale Township, Michigan.  Two dozen residents "gave a laundry list" to the Town Council that prompted Township Supervisor Jim Beelen to "deal the company a strong rebuke."  

The firm addressed the temperature problems, said Gatehouse, who co-founded Copper Beech in 1999.

Residents of Columbia's Copper Beech development
"threatened to revolt if problems in their units are not remedied," the Maneater reported in 2006.   Mold, bugs, "a parking situation that is insane," and other problems prompted a 115-member "Withhold Your Rent" group to take action.   "Leaky pipes, slanted floors, flooded basements, and loose carpets," posed problems in other units, KOMU reported.

Noise, partying, trespassing, street racing, and a "suspicious fire pit" prompted community complaints at a 2009 meeting of the
Oshtemo, Michigan Board of Trustees, near the Western Michigan University campus.   Trustees met with Gatehouse, who promised "increased security and speed bumps to deter speeding." 

"We hope the representatives of the Township would agree that we are taking these matters seriously and working to be cooperative," he said

Gatehouse stepped down as Copper Beech CEO in 2010 to start Park7.   If media reports and online complaints are any guide, poor conditions have continued.  Now owned by Campus Crest Communities -- a North Carolina-based student apartment developer with its own sketchy reputation -- Copper Beech continues making headlines. 

Move-in delays, muddy footprints on the carpet, leftover pop cans, dirty bathrooms, broken appliances, power outlets and air conditioners were among problems Copper Beech student-residents at Iowa State University reported in 2014.   


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