Opinion: The Lofts aren’t as luxury as they’d like you to think


Image: Mahima Sultan

Emily Rose spent most of her summer propping her Lofts door open with a shoe due to the broken Bear Card scanner on her door.

This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.

“Live it. Love it. Loft it.”

That’s the slogan for the Lofts, the high-end student apartments across Mercer’s campus. They promise to help you start transitioning from college dorms to living on your own. But are they delivering?

In my experience at Phase I — the property above Margarita’s — the answer was “no.” Rent is $810 per month, not including utility fees or the security deposit. Despite the luxury price, Bear Card systems break and stay broken, the hallways are home to more than their fair share of bugs and — worst of all — the privacy you think you’re getting doesn’t materialize.

On one hand, the Lofts are very safe. You need Bear Card access to enter the building and your apartment. You get a physical key for your bedroom, but not for your unit, which means that scanning your Bear Card is the only way to enter. When the scanner on my door stopped recognizing my card once the summer began, I was locked out.

Lofts management let me in with their key, then sent the Auxiliary Services maintenance team to fix the scanner a while later. The issue was resolved — for a day.

It became a cycle. For weeks, I had to prop my door when I left so I could get back in. Management sent maintenance folks to try and repair the scanner multiple times, but the fix would only last a day or so before giving out again.

When I asked why it happened so often, a community manager for my building told me that I was far from the only resident experiencing this. She told me that Auxiliary Services told her they suspected that the card readers, which had just been installed that year, couldn’t handle the humidity. We live in Middle Georgia. What kind of development doesn’t consider that humidity might be a problem?

Emily Rose spent most of her summer propping her Lofts door open with a shoe due to the broken Bear Card scanner on her door. Photo by Mahima Sultan

Maintenance staff installed a new Bear Card reader and door handle for my apartment. At that point, though, I only had about two weeks left in my lease and had spent most of the summer propping my door open with a flip-flop.

The humidity couldn’t be avoided. The hallways in several Lofts properties aren’t closed in; they’re open breezeways with balconies at either end. When it’s hot out, moths, grasshoppers and roaches become your newest neighbors.

I understand that students don’t choose the Lofts because they want a safe haven from bugs or expect everything to work perfectly all the time. One of the major reasons we look to the Lofts over on-campus options is the privacy.

In the dorms, residence assistants (RAs) conduct room checks. They’ll look around to make sure you don’t have any contraband, but at least you know when they’re coming (sometimes), and they don’t stay long. Not to mention, you get a physical key for most dorms, and the most expensive four-person apartment on campus, in the Gardens, runs you $3,585 per semester.

In the Lofts, it’s a different story. While they aren’t staffed by RAs, the lease states that Lofts management, maintenance and custodial staff can enter your apartment pretty much whenever they want. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up in the morning or came home after work to see them in my apartment working, cleaning or evaluating something. They’re not required to alert you ahead of time, either.

I looked through the lease to see if I could bring up my privacy concerns, and I found some pretty unusual policies.

If you’re inside when they knock at the door, they can come in whether or not you let them. If you’re not home, Lofts folks “may enter peacefully and at reasonable times by duplicate or master key (or by breaking a window or other means when necessary in emergencies)” if it’s for any of the reasons listed.

Some of those reasons make sense; for example, if they’re responding to a maintenance request you made, if you die or if you stole something from them. But others are very vague or shouldn’t warrant unannounced entry, such as “preventing waste of utilities; exercising our contractual lien; leaving notices; delivering, installing, reconnecting or replacing appliances, furniture, equipment or access control devices” and more.

I decided to move to the newest Loft, over by Five Star Stadium, this year. Although the lease is the same, I’m hopeful that the other issues won’t be a problem in the new building. So far, I’ve been nothing but pleased here.

It’s hard to stay mad at the Lofts. The folks who work there are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Every morning without fail, my community manager at Phase I told me to have a great day on my way out the door, and I could always tell that she meant it. Everyone is very helpful, and they seem genuinely happy to help you.

Niceness doesn’t make up for lack of privacy or the sky-high rent, though. So when it comes to college living at Mercer, you’re probably better off finding a place unassociated with Mercer.

Once your three-year campus residence requirement is over, that is. Go Bears!