With all the signs posted around campus right now, it’s pretty difficult to miss that there’s a new apartment complex at 32nd and Race streets — just a block away from most of the freshman dorms.
At first glance, this might seem like another convenient location for more students to live, but the building is not actually leasing to students. Instead, this apartment complex, built on Drexel’s campus, is targeting employees of nearby universities and medical centers.
Vue32 actually signed a contract with University City that it wouldn’t, under any circumstances, lease to undergraduates.
Despite this, the building is advertising all over campus with dozens of signs that make it clear that the building is now offering tours and leases, which seems like an insult to undergrads, given that most of the people who pass these signs can’t actually live there. And while the building is targeting staff, faculty and graduate students, this is a fairly small proportion of the people walking through campus on a daily basis.
Also, Drexel housing is going through a lot of changes right now. This year, North Hall is being converted into an entirely freshman dorm, and not all freshmen students have yet been assigned a room. Admissions staff are having to add a lot more triples than in past years. This is a huge problem, and makes me think that Vue32’s plot of land would be far better used for building more freshman housing, especially as it’s already so close to the existing dorms.
In my opinion, it’s far more important to provide good, spacious housing for freshmen (most of whom are new to the city, to living alone or to both) than to increase the already large number of apartment buildings in University City that are only accessible to staff and high-income graduates.
Finally, this building (dubbed a “luxury” apartment complex) is placed right on the border between Drexel’s campus and Powelton Village, a neighborhood predominantly filled with working-class families and students. At Vue32, prices start at $1,700 a month for the most basic one-bedroom apartment, and can be as much as $2,960 a month for the two-bedroom penthouse.
The disparity between this “luxury” and conditions in the nearby neighborhoods are overwhelming.
In Powelton Village, there are many rentals available for under $500 per person. In addition, Vue 32 has amenities such as a “genius bar,” fitness center and conference room, the type usually favored by business-people, while most apartments in Powelton Village are converted houses with small rooms and no extra features.
Bringing overpriced living and luxury amenities to this neighborhood will no doubt contribute to gentrification. The cost of living in the area overall will increase, making it even more difficult than it already is for students to find affordable accommodation and possibly leading to more people dropping out as they just can’t afford to live close to campus anymore. There’s no point having a special apartment complex for staff and faculty if there are no students for them to teach.
I just can’t agree with Drexel’s decision to lease land to the company that built Vue32. The goal of a university should be to cater to its students first and foremost — especially with all the tuition we pay — and this building doesn’t benefit students at all.
Even though it’s probably a lovely place to live, the benefit to its residents is not worth the indirect cost to Drexel students and to the surrounding community as a whole.