'I'm at the point of tears:' Mechanical and structural issues continue at NC student apartments

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — There was a lot of excitement when the Jolly Roger student living complex opened on August 10th of 2021.

Just in time for ECU’s fall semester, residents were excited to move into the newly built apartment complex located on the corner of Charles Boulevard and 14th Street. The seven-story, 804-bedroom complex looks like a dream, featuring a rooftop pool, two-story gym, 55-inch televisions in every room and more.

But when residents moved in, they say it was anything but a dream. Within just a few days, complaints about flooding, sewage, mold, and unfinished rooms began to arise.

Since its opening, 9OYS has received numerous calls and emails from upset parents and disappointed students who were expecting a state-of-the-art experience. They tell us what they got, if anything, was the exact opposite.

“Come move-in day we didn’t even have locks on our bedroom doors, nothing was finished,” said resident Bryanna Gennaro. “It took about another month to get our bedroom door keys,”

Gennaro said immediately upon move-in, she noticed sewage backing up into the toilet bowels, and yellow-brownish water coming from the showerhead. She said she couldn’t shower or flush her toilet for a few days because it would back up with sewage.

“It felt like kind-of moving into a warehouse, the outside was done, but nothing on the inside was. And it just feels like paying $800 a month in a place I can’t live, it is a waste of my money.” Gennaro is currently living at a different location with a friend as she waits for the issues to be resolved.

9OYS spoke with one resident who we’ll call Garrett. He said he’s from the western part of North Carolina and couldn’t physically tour the place prior to moving in.

“I just saw the 3D images online, everything looked great,” Garrett said. He said he’s been fairly lucky compared to issues other residents have had, reporting having very minimal issues.

It’s what Garrett found that is interesting.

“They had all kinds of blueprints about how large the issue was. They had images of the pipe itself in the building and shutting off a valve here, but it could cause everything else to splurge and shoot up,” Garrett said. “And then I found mold assessment forms that had been filled out, a whole stack of them.”

It turns out, he stumbled upon one of the supposed-to-be study rooms that had been converted to an office-like space for construction to work out of. The room was filled with blueprints, forms, maintenance requests and other equipment.

At one point, Garrett said he stopped a construction worker outside to find out what was going on because he wasn’t getting answers from management or the leasing office.

“I said ‘What are you seeing, do you have pictures, what can you tell me?’ And he goes, ‘When we are opening the sinks, bathtubs, it is unfinished, everything was just rushed. He goes, it’s like someone came and just threw up drywall.'”

Garrett also tells 9OYS, he had his car swiped in the parking deck of the complex, only to go to management to discover none of the cameras in the parking deck work. He even sent 9OYS photos of elevators being out of service, and no apparent elevator inspection certification in any of the elevators. He told 9OYS he’s even heard reports of other residents being stuck on the elevator for 30 minutes at a time.

9OYS also received photos of the fifth floor, where at least two fire extinguisher cabinets were empty.

9OYS spoke with two roommates who say it was a disaster from the moment they walked into their new apartment.

“The day I moved in, the day I walked into my room, my room was flooded,” said Caitlyn. “And then the next day I noticed my floor was already building up, and I was like ‘OK, well I know this means there was previous water damage.'”

For her roommate, Nicole Chiara, it didn’t get much better. She tells 9OYS she was showering when she noticed the paint on her bathroom wall started bubbling. She said it took four days to send someone to look at the issue and all they did was pop the bubble.

“And it was like brown water in these bubbles, it smelled horrendous. I was like, ‘How is this okay?'”

It’s water damage like that which has caused mold in many of the apartments, which many say is making residents sick. A few students tell 9OYS they’ve been sick from the moment they moved in with a sinus infection that won’t go away.

The roommates tell 9OYS this was just the beginning of a very long couple of months. The women had to move out for a month and a half until their original apartment had the necessary repairs made.

“They had us move into a handicap apartment, which I found kind of weird because if someone handicapped needed the apartment it’s not available,” said Chiara. When they finally moved back in, the tubs were unsealed, cabinets wouldn’t close because they were put on incorrectly, outlet covers were missing, screws were missing and sticking out of the cabinets.

“I went down and said this isn’t done, there is no way,” Caitlyn said. That prompted move number four.

“We got moved to the fifth floor, brand new apartment, they said no one had ever lived in it before. And then two weeks ago, I was in the kitchen and the next thing I know, water is coming through one of the lights in the ceiling and it was torrential downpour water,” Caitlyn said.

Caitlyn said after speaking to a maintenance worker, they discovered a piece was loose in the sink of the apartment above them that caused all the water to drain directly into their apartment while their upstairs neighbor was doing the dishes.

Cue move number five. When they were getting stuff out of their apartment a few days later, they took a video showing a wall that had been removed in their bathroom, leading right into the apartment next door.

Video: Nicole Chiara

They told 9OYS the marketing team of the complex was not happy.

“I’m like ‘What did you expect me to do, I’m a college student that’s been moving around a lot when I should be focusing on my studies,” Chiara said

Caitlyn said a lot of people saw their video.

“I think that was probably the first thing that people started noticing … ‘oh wait, there’s actually some serious stuff going on at this place’,” Caitlyn said.

The women said one of the main issues they’ve experienced is workers coming in unannounced to people’s apartments.

“Maintenance, IT people and construction workers, they’ll knock on the door once or twice but if you don’t answer they just come in,” Caitlyn said. “My friend was literally in the shower, and when she got out of the shower there was an IT person in her living room.”

It’s something other female residents are concerned about.

When they were finally able to move back in, Chiara said her bathroom had random stains in it, metal was sticking out of the floor, and there was paint on the floor.

“One of the biggest issues is communication. There is zero communication between management, construction and residents. I ended up getting an apology from one of the contractors, not the management or the leasing office. So that’s really saying something when the people of the apartment complex arent apologizing for that fact this is all happening, it’s the construction workers.”

Caitlyn, Jolly Roger Resident

The roommates say there were multiple times when maintenance workers had begun work without the leasing office being aware. Caitlyn said a few days after their fifth move, she got a phone call from the leasing office asking if they had moved out so they could start repairs. “I said, ‘You’re a little bit late, they’ve already taken out the ceiling and put it back in’,” Caitlyn said.

Residents also told 9OYS, the 55-inch televisions that were promised in each apartment just began arriving in the past month. They also tell 9OYS the internet frequently goes out.

Residents told 9OYS they are upset over broken promises and the reportedly rude nature of management staff.

“They don’t greet you when you come in, it’s kind of, they’re in the middle of a conversation and they’ll get to you when they’re done. It doesn’t feel like I’m important to them or like they care about the outcome of their work,” says Bryanna Gennaro.

Jolly Roger residents who spoke with 9OYS say they just wish the builders had taken more time, instead of rushing to open by the fall semester. Chiara says, “The building was just built too fast and carelessly.”

“I mean I’m at the point of tears at this point because it was just so much,” Caitlyn said.

9OYS reached out to officials with the City of Greenville Coding Enforcement and Department of Inspections, who tell us the city is aware of the situation and letting the building work through its problems. Chief City Building Inspector William Mills signed off on a Certificate of Occupancy, or C.O. for the building. Officials tell 9OYS the building would not have received a certificate had it not met inspection and wasn’t up to the city’s code.

Document provided by The City of Greenville

If you look at the certificate, it says it’s good for 45 days. We asked the city about this and they say temporary C.O.s are common for commercial spaces, and the certificate will automatically renew after 45 days as long as any required work still unfinished is being actively worked on. The city also said they are continuing to inspect the ongoing work being done at The Jolly Roger, and their last formal inspection was done sometime in the first week of November.

9OYS also reached out to CA Ventures, the company that manages The Jolly Roger. They provided us with the following statement about the situation:

“New development construction projects occasionally experience items that require additional attention. We are fully aware of our residents’ concerns and are working diligently with our contractors to remediate each matter. We have a dedicated team of contractors systematically working throughout the building to address all issues. Our residents are our top priority and our management team is on-site to assist in all aspects of the remediation process. The Jolly Roger is and will continue to be an integral part of the ECU and Greenville communities, and we are looking forward to a great year.”

-CA Ventures Management Services

Residents at The Jolly Roger say at this point they really just want a reimbursement. Many are still waiting on gift card incentives promised to them when they signed for the apartment or for compensation for moving and damages, some being upwards of $500 dollars. Residents said the complex is offering free rent for the month of December if people re-sign with the building.

None of the student residents we spoke with plan on resigning with The Jolly Roger.

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