The Degree Pushes Back Opening Date, Leaves Students Stranded

By Aron Csiki | August 14, 2017

Photo by Andrew Rigney / UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press

Some UNLV students will be forced to find alternative housing for the fall semester after the developer in charge of completing The Degree — UNLV’s luxurious and ambitious new housing project — announced in early June that construction would not be finished until summer 2018.


Advertisements for the new complex stated that it would be completed by this fall.


The announcement from The Midby Companies, the real estate development company building The Degree, came in the form of an email sent to project’s would-be tenants on June 5 —  about 80 days before the start of the semester.


The Degree served as a promise to ignite the university town life around Maryland Parkway and was the first phase in a three-part plan to create a thriving “U District” that would offer greater, more affordable housing for students.


The Midby Cos. CEO, Eric Midby, told the UNLV Scarlet & Gray Free Press that one of its missions is to help “UNLV toward its goal of achieving Top Tier status,” the long-time dream of the university and its president, Len Jessup.


Though some current leases were cancelled without penalty and students were refunded deposits and fees, the gesture did little to alleviate the anger and anxiety students felt at losing housing option, with some taking to Twitter to vent.


One user, @chipeniiiii, tweeted: “At work rn and all I’m thinking about is where I’m gonna stay for the next year at UNLV because the degree apartments fucked up.” One sympathetic student, @Emoney13swift, said “I feel so bad about what the degree did to so many unlv students damn.”


Sam De Jong, a sophomore in hospitality management, was drawn in by The Degree’s opulent vision and an itch to move out of the dorms and into a more independent life.


For De Jong, the first cracks in The Degree’s veneer appeared when he visited the project’s old office in 2016.


“They had graphic 3D printed pictures. There weren’t even videos [and] they didn’t give me details on how it was being built,” De Jong told the Free Press.


“The main focus was ‘we’re being opened in Fall 2017, if you sign your lease now I’ll waive your fees and you’re gonna have a great time.’ Obviously as a vulnerable freshman I was like ‘that sounds fun, why not?’”


De Jong picked up three friends to sign the lease with him. He said their new apartment would have cost $675 a month per person without utilities.


“We were very vulnerable,” he said.


When The Midby Cos.’ email came in June, De Jong was baffled.


“These people literally just left… freshman, sophomores, whatever age students, and they just don’t have a place to go now.”


The Midby Cos. sent a list of alternative housing options to the students who signed leases with them.


When asked if he felt the consolatory list provided by the company helped, De Jong said “No. The people, the company, they really just kind of put a BandAid over something so extreme…half of those places that we checked or called were already full!”


Communicating with the Free Press through a spokeswoman, Eric Midby confirmed that the cause of the delay was construction related, but that the company is “confident in our development plan for the U District…and we continue to work collaboratively with UNLV and our contractor toward its completion.”


“Our overarching goal is to help make UNLV ‘best in class’ for providing its students with a well-rounded quality experience that includes on-campus living,” Midby said.


He explained that as “with many construction projects,” unanticipated delays occurred.


Trying to find reasons for the construction delay, the Free Press reached out to Korte Co., the firm contracted by Midby to construct The Degree.


After initially responding to an inquiry via email, Korte did not continue communications with the Free Press and did not answer questions regarding construction. Korte also did not provide a statement on Midby having students sign leases as early as Fall 2016, before The Degree’s outer walls were even constructed.


Despite enjoying hefty coverage last year from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Vegas Weekly anticipating the new project to trigger a Maryland Parkway development boom, little news will be found on The Degree in 2017.


The past positive media and Eric Midby’s statement from early 2016 that “the surrounding community will experience a very positive social and economic impact from the increase in students living on and near campus…” are a striking contrast to what currently sits near Cottage Grove: the shell of a compound surrounded by dirt.


Once The Degree is completed, Midby promises a spacious 377,000-square-foot complex with private bedrooms, kitchens, balconies, a modern swimming pool, cabanas, lounges, free wi-fi and dozens of other amenities.


The Midby Cos. has been developing properties in southern Nevada since the 1970’s, helping to create houses, plazas, resorts and business properties. They also have projects in Seattle and Missouri.


Leases can still be signed for the 2018-2019 school year.

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