Aspen Heights residents move into new spaces despite concerns

Aspen Heights presents amended options for displaced students



Damien Sarrazolla, senior Spanish major, stands in front of Aspen Heights’ unfinished apartment complex, Aug. 10.

FRANKIE BEER, Evergreen news editor

With front yards littered with rubble, ladders and pipes, the Aspen Heights Pullman off-campus cottages were not fit for living, which WSU students learned just over a week before they were set to move in. 

The first week of August, Aspen Heights called students to confirm their move-in date on Aug. 13, assuring students the units would be ready, said Gabby Hanson, senior criminal justice and psychology double major. 

Due to “supply chain challenges,” students could not move into their apartments until “sometime” in October and were presented with two temporary living arrangements in the meantime, Mark Evans, director of public relations, wrote in an email.  

“It’s just empty promises. We lost a lot of hope, and we lost a lot of trust with Aspen completely that day,” Hanson said. 

Aspen Heights initially required students to pay rent during their displacement, but the complex offered an amended set of options for students on Aug. 9. Students will not have to pay rent for Aspen Heights and can find different living arrangements with a $1,500 credit or reserve a “bed space” at local properties, like The Ruckus Student Living and The Hills on Grand, with a $300 credit, according to an Aspen Heights email.

Construction on the Aspen Heights complex will continue until October when students may be able to move into their apartments.

Hanson and her roommates chose to move into The Ruckus on Aug. 15 while they tried to terminate their lease, but their current living situation raised some concerns, she said. 

After her roommates finished their paperwork on move-in day, they had to wait nearly five hours to receive keys from The Ruckus that had not been made for each apartment. After not receiving the keys, they walked into an unlocked apartment, said Cindy Ramirez, senior psychology major and Hanson’s roommate.

That was like the first thing we noticed that was kind of off, she said. We just already knew that it wasn’t going to turnout good.

As Ramirez entered the apartment, she was greeted with paint splatters on the walls, mold growing on the window blinds, dirt covering the furniture and dead insects lining the windows. When the roommates tried to open one of the cabinets, it fell completely off. They did receive beds, but their storage space is extremely small, she said.

Ramirez and her roommates emailed Aspen Heights that day, and the apartment was able to conduct a walk-through of the unit Tuesday afternoon. Aspen Heights said it would try to find people to clean the apartment and create a solution, but Ramirez said it may take a long time.

In the meantime, she is staying at a friend’s house while her personal belongings stay in her car despite high temperatures.

“I don’t really have anywhere steady to stay,” she said. “It’s just scary because classes start next Monday, and I work too, so it’s just kind of a very stressful thing.”

Although The Ruckus did not approve an interview with The Daily Evergreen, the complex confirmed it is working with Aspen Heights to house displaced students this fall, said Property Manager Philip Chambers. 

When senior Spanish major Damien Sarrazolla moved into his new apartment on Aug. 15 at The Ruckus, he said there were minor issues, including missing smoke alarm batteries and a broken bathroom fan, but the unit was clean and one of the best he has lived in at the complex.  

Previously living in four different and “notoriously bad” apartments at The Ruckus, Sarrazolla encountered a dishwasher filled with black mold, a unit without fire alarms, a building that wobbled when he walked and a broken heater from November to January, he said. 

“It was one of the coldest winters, and I had no heat,” Sarrazolla said. “I submitted multiple requests, and they didn’t replace it until February.” 

Although his experiences with The Ruckus last year were not ideal, Sarrazolla said he is glad to have a space to live without the financial burden of paying rent to Aspen Heights or The Ruckus itself. 

Sarrazolla said the Aspen Heights’ amended terms came once the complex’s leasing office pushed its owners for better student accommodations and after his interviews with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and KREM.

Evans wrote Aspen Heights will deliver its promise to “welcome [students] into our community” in October, and construction crews are working nonstop to prepare the complex for student living. 

After being blindsided by Aspen Heights earlier this month, Hanson said there is nothing to keep the complex from further delaying construction down the line. The new October move-in date, during midterms, will cause additional stress for students. 

“Who can confidently believe that they’re actually going to be ready in October?” Hanson said. “We all thought that they were going to be ready in August because that’s what they had been telling us from the very beginning.”

Aspen Heights first submitted permits to build the new duplexes on January 28, 2021, and on April 30, 2021, according to City of Pullman permit logs. On July 1, 2021, Aspen Heights also submitted a permit to construct a clubhouse building for residents and staff. 

The complex’s construction began in August 2021, according to a Moscow-Pullman Daily News article

Construction crews are working to ensure Aspen Heights is ready in October.

WSU is also engaging with the local Aspen Heights management team to ensure students are cared for although it is not affiliated with the privately-owned apartment complex, Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communications, wrote in an email. 

For students looking into off-campus apartments, Sarrazolla said he recommends touring the apartments in person and reading the lease carefully, ensuring there is nothing that protects the apartment and hurts the student.

After receiving empty reassurances and a lack of written commitment when she and her roommates first signed their lease for Aspen Heights in December, Hanson encourages students to get apartments’ promises in writing if they cannot see the building for themselves, she said. 

“Stay with your gut. Get it in writing,” she said.