Future of Oak Place Apartments surrounded by uncertainty

The remaining 252 students living in the south wing of Oak Place Apartments have to vacate their on-campus homes after more damage and concerning levels of mold were found in the building.

Initially, repairs to the building located at 5050 Oak St. were expected to cost approximately $10 million, and were planned to wrap up before the start of the fall semester.

Now, however, the future of the building is unclear.

According to Robert Simmons, associate vice chancellor of administration, repair costs caused by the original construction, completed by JE Dunn, are going to rise significantly. The final estimate has not yet been determined, and depends on how the university chooses to move forward.

In the next few months, UMKC, along with the university’s insurance company, will assess different options. This could ultimately lead to the demolition of the north and south wings of Oak Place Apartments.

“If you think about when a car is in an auto accident, there’s a certain point where you say ‘I need a new car,’” said Simmons. “We have not made that determination, but that is one of things you do look at: Is there a point where you say you’re going to have so many parts and pieces that you just start over?”

Until a decision is made, the estimated financial burden on UMKC remains unknown. The possibility of legal action against the entities responsible for construction is up to the university’s insurance company, but no decision has been made yet.

When the new damage was discovered, progress made with the university’s insurance company took a few steps back, Director of Media Relations John Martellaro explained.

“To use a medical analogy, there’s two steps: diagnosis and treatment,” said Martellaro. “We made an initial diagnosis, but as we started treatment, we realized we had to update the diagnosis, which is where we are now.”

Previously, problems with the building included two stacks of cracked PVC pipe risers that caused damage to flooring, drywall and finishes.

As work on the vacated north wing began, Simmons said, the school discovered the broken PVC pipes extended to additional risers and water was present in unanticipated areas outside of the 178-unit apartment complex.

Although repairs to the south wing have not yet begun, the school anticipates additional problems.

When an air quality test in mid-February revealed elevated levels of mold in six units (five of which were occupied), OPA staff informed students living in the south wing that they would have to relocate.

According to Director of Residential Life Sean Grube, a mold count is considered abnormal when the number of spores inside is higher than the number outside.

“In each of those [six units], the spore count was moderately increased over the outdoors, there wasn’t anything that made the mold guys say, ‘You need to get people out this second,’” said Grube.

However, the students living in those units immediately relocated.

Grube says each occupied unit is scheduled for air-quality tests once a week, until all students are moved out by the end of the month.

With campus housing limited to the two remaining residential halls on the Volker campus, apartments located on the Hospital Hill campus and UMKC Homes, Grube said other options involving off-campus entities are on the horizon.

“We’re not at a point where we can talk in detail about those options, [but] once we’re able to announce the space, I think students will be happy,” said Grube. “There will be easy access to transportation to campus and the actual apartments are very, very nice.”

Simmons emphasized that, although the extensive damage to Oak Place Apartments is frustrating for the university, the biggest concern is students.

“It’s a headache for us, but we recognize the real headache is for the students,” said Simmons. “We can’t make everything go away, but we are going for a smooth transition.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *