Students forced to find new housing with developer purchase of houses

(Courtesy Photo by TJ Vilkanskas)

Some students will be left finding a new place to live following the Back Nine Development acquisition of four homes on Manhattan Avenue. Back Nine plans to demolition these homes in order to build a new apartment complex.

Back Nine Development, owned by TJ Vilkanskas, is a residential construction and land development company.

The new apartment complex slated to be built on Manhattan Avenue will be called Avenue M. Construction is set to begin this summer, the same time as construction for another apartment building called 11 B.

Vilkanskas said Avenue M will be similar to the already-build apartments owned by the company, like 12 B and the soon-to-come 11 B. Back Nine Development also owns Thurston Apartments and Olympic Townhomes.

As for the houses on Manhattan Avenue, some of the houses still have tenants. Some tenants signed a lease for the next year before Back Nine Development made their purchase. Vilkanskas said the company is working with these tenants to relocated them.

“There is never a perfect time for redevelopment,” Vilkanskas said. “There is always somebody being put in an unexpected situation where they must find a new place to live.”

Cecilia Nancarrow, sophomore in professional strategic selling, was one of six new tenants that signed a lease to live in one of the houses on Manhattan Avenue scheduled for demolition. She would have moved into a house in August.

“We were notified about three weeks ago that there had been a transfer of ownership and that the new owner had plans to knock our house down,” Nancarrow said. “It really put us in a tough spot.”

Nancarrow has been working with Vilkanskas on relocation and has met two times so far.

“TJ said he would try to find rooms in 12 B, or he would compensate us if we found a new house,” Nancarrow said. “The past couple of weeks we’ve been stressed out and panicking about what we should do, but TJ has been willing to help relocate us in any way he could.”

Vilkanskas said since his company is local and depends on the Manhattan market, it is important to work respectfully with those being displaced either by helping them find a new place or providing some sort of financial compensation.

“We’ve been fortunate to have formed great relationships during this type of process in the past. Many end up becoming future residents in our buildings because they see that we care and understand the inconvenience that redevelopment may create,” Vilkanskas said.

Sara Sullivan, senior in life science, is at the end of her lease in one of the houses set to be demolished.

“I’m sad to see it go, I’m sad no one else will be able to live in the house that I’m living in or when I come back, I won’t be able to show anyone my house,” Sullivan said.

Vilkanskas said that at the end of the day he hopes the end product is positive for the overall community and is worth the short-term pain.

“What we did is we spent a lot of years kind of working on a general floor plan or layout of apartments that people tend to like, which is what people like in our custom homes,” Vilkanskas said. “It’s essentially an open floor plan for apartments — we have the kitchens that open up to the great room. We like to utilize quartz countertops and stainless-steel appliances.”

Vilkanskas, a dad of three, said he built the 12 B apartments from a parent’s perspective for when their kid goes to college.

“We wanted the proper security and I wanted it to be clean and do a good job taking care of the requests of the tenants,” Vilkanskas said.

Liz Robinson, sophomore in hospitality management, lives in the 12 B apartment building currently.

“Living here, nothing is my responsibility,” Robinson said. “If a light burns out, I can call and have it changed. In a house you have a decent amount of responsibility and I like how nice and new and pretty it is. I think Manhattan definitely needs some more apartments that are updated and provide to the college students.”

Looking toward the future, Viskanskas said he really wants to focus on buildings that encourage entrepreneurial growth and give graduates a reason to stick around Manhattan.

“I love Manhattan and I get frustrated with everyone getting a degree and trying to figure out how to get to Kansas City or how to get to Chicago or how to get any place besides Manhattan,” Vilkanskas said.

Vilkanskas said Avenue M and the 11 B apartments will be Back Nine Development’s last residential multifamily apartments in Manhattan for awhile.

Avenue M is scheduled to be ready for tenants by August 2020.