University Village, formally known as Lewis Park apartments, will get a facelift to go with its recent name change.
The apartment complex, located at 800 Grand Avenue, was known as Lewis Park until Dec. 15 when Capstone Properties, a Birmingham, Ala. based company that specializes in campus housing, bought it.
Mikki Pender, the property manager, said the complex was built in 1972.
“We want to pay homage to the fact that in the ’70s and ’80s Lewis Park was the place to live,” she said.
She said when the complex opened, students scrambled to get an apartment in Lewis Park.
She said the former property owners hadn’t paid much attention to the complex during the past 10 years. The units were badly in need of maintenance and the common areas and grounds had been neglected, she said.
Pender also said vandalism had increased during the past year and the complex had acquired a reputation for being noisy and a bit rough.
In an effort to stop foot traffic from passing through the complex, the new owners immediately repaired the fence surrounding the property, locked the gates and planted some trees around the perimeter.
“The Carbondale police are working extremely hard with us to take care of the bad elements in our community,” Pender said. “They did foot patrols on New Year’s Eve and we didn’t have any problems.”
Pender said people who didn’t reside in the complex vandalized vehicles and threw empty bottles and cans on the property when they left the local bars.
Some students living there said they have already seen improvements, which could better the complex’s tarnished reputation.
“Service has been amazing since the new management took over,” said Matej Osyka, a senior from Streamwood double majoring in aviation management and political science.
He said his apartment wasn’t scheduled for renovation yet, but he is comfortable in it and not concerned about upgrades.
Eric Ness, a senior from Peoria majoring in zoology, said one of his friends had a window broken out of his car, but it did not stop him from wanting to live there since it was so close to campus.
Kevin Baity, Carbondale city manager, said the new owners have been working well with all the city departments involved in the upgrade program.
“They’ve had several outstanding inspections cleared up already,” he said.
When Capstone took over the property in December, they began to renovate apartments. All the units are slated for upgrades, with the first four scheduled for completion by the end of this week.
“They are putting millions of dollars into this property,” Pender said.
The lobby had freshly painted walls, new carpeting and an immaculate reception area. Maintenance workers were inspecting roofs and fixing windows.
Colorful signboards posted in the lobby of the leasing office urged prospective renters to “Sign Your Lease Today” and “Ask About Our Furniture Packages.”
Pender said the company plans to hire at least 10 students as marketing assistants because peer-to-peer leasing is effective and the marketing assistants would receive leasing bonuses.
She said current residents can keep the same lease until it terminates or get a new individual lease.
Capstone has instituted a “by the bed” or individual lease policy, which means that a renter won’t be responsible if a roommate defaults on payments.
A clubhouse with 24-hour access is slated to open this summer. The owners also plan to add a workout and game room, study rooms and a computer café.
Pender said she has leased apartments to students whose parents lived here when they attended SIUC and want their sons and daughters to live in the complex, too.
“It’s been a Carbondale staple for 40 years,” she said.