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Incomplete Cross Village frustrates students amid struggles with low occupancy

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Cross construction

Acre Market, a fresh fruit and produce marketplace, under construction at Cross Neighborhood on Aug. 19.

Final construction for on-campus housing option Cross Village will not be complete until late September, leaving tenants to navigate the complications of the incomplete residence hall as it also struggles to fill beds.

A large part of the advertising campaign for Cross was its dining, gym options and other luxury features — most of which have not yet opened. An OU Housing and Food Services official said in an email obtained by The Daily that Cross promised amenities would be complete in the next five weeks.

Cross currently has a 28 percent occupancy rate, The Oklahoman reported in mid-August. It is unclear how this will affect OU financially, and requests to speak with representatives about the issue were not met.

“Building D ... doesn’t even have anybody living in it,” said Braxton Wilkinson, Cross resident and computer engineering sophomore. “On my floor, I’d say every other door is actually occupied, so it’s pretty sparse.”

The Cross amenity construction deadlines, according to the email, are as follows: the black box theater will be complete by Aug. 22, the “sweat hut,” “DIY creative space” and “innovation hub” will be finished by Sept. 1, and dining options for Building A and Building C will open Sept. 10 and Sept. 24, respectively.

Right now, however, the unfinished complex is a source of frustration for residents.  

Wilkinson said he decided to live at Cross because it was one of two on-campus living options given to him as a transfer student. The other was Headington College, one of OU’s residential colleges that also struggled with low occupancy when it opened last fall.

“It’s really been a rollercoaster,” Wilkinson said. “The building’s not finished. Really, the only thing that’s finished about it is the rooms and the staircases.”

Outside the buildings, there are only plots of dirt where the front lawn and courtyard should be. Wilkinson said this creates problems when it rains.

“We’ve started referring to the courtyard as ‘the swamp,’” Wilkinson said.

The units in Cross have kitchens that don’t feature ovens or stoves, so residents must rely on a communal kitchen space in the floor’s lounge if they need these appliances. And since the advertised in-house dining options aren’t yet available, residents must find other means of getting food.

Cross resident and biology sophomore Mackenzie Graf said she goes to the grocery store to get food, a chore she said she didn’t expect to have since she thought Cross’ dining options would be complete when she arrived. She said she also bought 100 meal points. Wilkinson said he purchased a pay-as-you-go OU Housing and Food Services meal plan that allows him to eat anywhere on campus.

Other troubles Wilkinson and Graf reported include a Sooner Card swipe access problem at Cross’ front door, construction workers playing around on the job and a twice-malfunctioning fire alarm — which Wilkinson said left him wondering if the fire alarms would work in a real emergency.

The Daily reached out to Cross property management company Balfour Beatty but was not able to speak with a communications representative regarding the facility’s issues.

Despite the problems, Graf said she generally likes her new living arrangement but thinks the completion of amenities is a must for marketability.

“I think it’ll be better ...  when everything comes up,” Graf said. “It’ll be a lot easier to try and sell this place when there’s a bunch of restaurants and the market.”

Wilkinson said he doesn’t blame the university for the difficulties with Cross but instead blames Balfour Beatty.

“They’re the ones who are at fault for everything not being the way it’s supposed to be,” Wilkinson said. “The OU employees have been really nice and really apologetic about the whole thing, but they don’t really have any power, any influence, over the issue.”

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