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Cross Village ownership sends letter asking for freshman to be allowed to live in Cross in 2020-2021 academic year

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Cross Residence Hall (copy)

Cross Village pictured Sept. 6.

The president of the nonprofit entity that owns Cross Village sent a letter Friday calling on interim OU President Joseph Harroz to make the luxury housing complex available to freshmen for the 2020-2021 academic year.

In the letter, which was shared with The Daily, Provident Oklahoma Education Resources, Inc. President Steve Hicks said Cross Village can provide better conditions than current OU housing options available to freshmen and help them avoid “conditions that include mold and periodic flooding due to years of the university ignoring plumbing issues in the towers.”

Hicks cited an article on aging university housing published recently in The Daily’s Crimson Quarterly as evidence of issues in the towers.

“With the heightened concern over social distancing and COVID-19 issues,” Hicks said in the letter, “Cross Village is designed with private bedrooms and in-unit bathrooms which will be in much higher demand. … Cross would certainly provide the students and their families with a greater level of comfort regarding social distancing issues.”

In response to a request for comment from The Daily on the letter, a university spokesperson sent the following statement:

"The university is aware of the concerns students and their families have raised related to University Housing and continues to address those concerns, all the while working to ensure the safety of its students. As for Mr. Hicks, his letter and actions are deplorable. He is attempting to use the crisis that faces us all as a litigation tool to line his own pockets – to relieve him of the debt he incurred while making millions for himself and his family members. At a time when we should be focused on helping each other, he is trying to weaponize the pandemic to advance the lawsuit he filed last year against OU. This is consistent with his earlier tactic of hiring lobbyists to try to apply pressure to cause the University to pay money for his failed enterprise." 

Hicks also said in the letter that in 2018-2019, Provident Oklahoma offered to house students in Cross Village who had issues with mold in the towers at the housing rate that students had already paid to live in the towers, but OU denied the offer.

The letter comes amid a months-long legal dispute between the university and the owner of Cross Village. In a lawsuit filed in December, Provident Oklahoma alleged the university made “false promises and misrepresentations” to induce Provident to fund and construct the project on OU’s Norman campus.

Residents of Cross Village did not receive partial refunds like students in OU-owned housing, with Provident Oklahoma pointing to the university and the university pointing to Provident Oklahoma.

After this story was updated April 17 to incorporate a university statement, Hicks sent a subsequent letter via email on April 21, describing university comments made about him as "false, misleading and outright lies" meant to "defame and slander my reputation as well the reputation of my family members."

In the letter, which was sent to Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith, Harroz and the university's associate general counsel, Hicks demanded an immediate retraction of the statements along with a written apology from the university.

Hicks also listed a response to some of the statements made in the university's comment, explaining that Cross Village was never his project, but that "POER built what the University wanted and required for the exclusive use and benefit of the University and its students, faculty and staff. POER would not have financed or built the Project otherwise."

Hicks said that the portion about he and his family "making millions" was an "intentional misrepresentation," as neither he nor his family members will "make a dime off the Cross Village Project." According to the letter, POER was paid a development fee at closing as approved by the OU, and although POER is "contractually allowed to receive an annual asset management fee for the management and operation of the project," the company has "never taken the fee to which it is entitled due to the financial condition of the project."

"While the University abandoned this Project in 2018 after receiving $20M, POER has continued to operate the Project for the benefit of the students of the university without compensation," Hicks said in the emailed letter.

Hicks also explained that the project debt was not his debt, but that the university's financing structure for the project "called for the bond debt to be paid from student housing rentals, and lease payments from commercial space and the parking garage which the University required be constructed for their Project." Hicks stated that it was after the university encountered "financial and budget issues" that OU began referring to it as POER's project, rather than their own. 

Hicks also stated that his intent with the original letter was to "assist the University in tackling an issue with The Towers housing, due to the expressed health and safety concerns at the Towers, and the new world in which we find ourselves as a result of COVID-19." He said the university's comment that he was attempting to "weaponize the pandemic” was insulting, and that if the university was successful in leasing up Cross Village, OU would be the only entity receiving the benefit of all excess revenues generated. 

This story was updated at 6:21 p.m. April 17 to incorporate the statement from the university. This story was again updated at 4:24 p.m. April 21 to incorporate additional comment from Provident Oklahoma Education Resources, Inc. President Steve Hicks.

Scott Kirker is a letters and Spanish senior and assistant news managing editor for The Daily. Previously he worked as summer editor-in-chief and as a news reporter covering research and administrative searches.

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