Power back at luxury student apartments after 5-day outage

By Daniel Young-Miller/Arizona Sonora News

–Updated with comment from Greystar

The luxury student apartment building Urbane, at the northwest corner of the University of Arizona campus, was without electricity on several floors from last Friday until 10.30 p.m. Tuesday, when a crew from Tucson Electric restored full power to the building. Many residents had to live with a flashlight in hand — or stay in a hotel, which Urbane management paid for.

The outage was confined to floors three through six, residents said. Residents estimated that about 200 of the building’s 300 residents were affected, as the bottom two floors had power. 

The building opened in the fall of 2016 as Hub 2, owned and operated by the same management as the apartment Hub around the corner. The building became Urbane in the fall of 2017, under the management of Greystar, a South Carolina based real-estate partnership that manages multifamily and student residential rental properties in the U.S. and abroad. The Urbane apartments at the University of Arizona rent for between $950 per person and $1,530 a person, depending on floor size and amenities.

Maddie Alexander, a UA senior communications student and resident of the building, said the outage started last Friday, during Tucson’s unusual snowstorm. She said that she and other residents assumed the problem was temporary.

“That was not the case at all,” she said. On Friday, she said, “we received an email that said when it snowed, everyone turned on the heat, which made something in the system stop working.”

On Saturday, residents received another email from Urbane, saying that management was still trying to figure out what was going on but that residents might wish to seek alternative housing.

“They offered comped hotel rooms, but if you took the hotel room you would not be comped for anything else,” Alexander said. “Fast-forward to Sunday without power, and people are starting to freak out. We have no hot water in our showers and everything in the fridge has to be thrown out.”

Another resident, Sienna Leone, a senior journalism student, said: “We’ve heard so many different stories as to why this happened. We’ve heard stories from when it was snowing everyone turning up their heat at the same time, to construction workers accidentally cutting an electricity cord.”

Leone added, “This has been a really big inconvenience as this is a couple days before Spring Break, you know. We all have tests.” Until power was restored, students had trouble charging their phones and “blow-drying our hair. It’s just been quite the mess.”

On Friday, Greg Wack, a Greystar spokesman, said that a manager in Tucson personally flew to Los Angeles to obtain a part to repair the problem.

He said: “The building experienced a power surge during the unseasonably cold weather, which tripped and damaged a main breaker. Crews tried for several days to make repairs but ultimately the part had to be replaced. To speed the process, Urbane’s community manager flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday, where the closest replacement part was located, and drove it back to Tucson himself so we could restore power that night rather than be forced to wait for the part to arrive on Wednesday via a commercial carrier.”   

Alexander said the situation had been frustrating but she recognized that things happen.

“Students are frustrated but I want to make it very clear that Urbane is doing an amazing job on accommodating the residents,” Alexander said. “They are offering free lunch and dinner, offering the hotels, and figuring out how much each resident will get in reimbursements in the form of gift cards,” for things like spoiled food.

On Monday, Greystar gave this statement to KVOA-TV in Tucson: 

During the cold weather over the weekend, Urbane experienced power outages due to high levels of electric usage. Work crews and Tucson Electric have been working around the clock for three days in effort to restore full power to the building.

Immediately upon learning of the outage, we communicated with residents about the steps we have been taking to address the situation. In addition, we provided students with the following:

–If residents find alternate accommodations (with family or friends), we are providing compensation in the form of gift cards for every night they are unable to stay in their apartment.

–If residents are not able to find accommodations on their own, Urbane will book and pay for the residents to stay in a hotel.

–We have provided meals to residents during the duration of the outage.

We are taking every possible step to restore power immediately, and we will continue to provide housing and meal vouchers to the residents until the issue is resolved.

We thank our residents for their continued patience during this situation.”


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