Spartans Will Live in Luxury: That’s the Message of ‘The Hub Lifestyle’ Brand

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020, 4:45 pm
Emily Joan Elliott

Above: The rooftop of The Hub in East Lansing late last summer in a photo supplied by Core Spaces.

“Spartan” and “luxury” are usually considered antonyms. But The Hub, the apartment complex on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Bogue Street that opened in August 2019, seeks to distinguish itself in East Lansing by offering MSU Spartans comfort, opulence, and ease above its competitors.

As national student-housing developer Core Spaces seeks approval from City Council next Tuesday for an even bigger second Hub project just south of the existing one — designed to house about three times as many students as the one already built — Core Spaces invited ELi in to show us “The Hub Lifestyle.”

We took the opportunity as we know many of our readers have expressed curiosity about the interiors of these big new projects, as well as about the cost to residents.

Above: Communal relaxation space in The Hub East Lansing (photo by Raymond Holt)

The cost of “living on” versus just-off:

While Core Spaces had hoped that The Hub’s studio apartments would appeal to graduate students and young professionals, the prices may keep life at The Hub a dream for most MSU grad students.

Furnished studios start at about $1,100/month — that gets you a Murphy bed — and the average graduate student at MSU employed under the contract that the Graduate Employees Union negotiated with the university receives gross monthly pay of approximately $1,700 to $1,900.

Above: A model studio apartment at The Hub in East Lansing (photos by Raymond Holt)

The Hub consequently seems more feasible for undergraduates seeking to live off campus in small groups. So how does that pencil-out?

Two semesters of room and board at MSU comes to about $10,500, whereas an undergraduate at The Hub sharing a multi-room apartment can pay on the low end just over $600/month for a shared bedroom. A private bedroom comes to $764/month.

Like on-campus dorm rooms, apartments at The Hub come furnished, but unlike dorm rooms, residents pay extra for electric (including heat and air conditioning) and water and sewer. Travis Hotz, Community Manager for The Hub East Lansing says that comes to about $75-125 per person per month.

The bottom line: “living on” in a double-room at MSU gets you 9 months with food for $10,500, whereas The Hub gets you 12 months with a shared bedroom and kitchen but without food for about $8,400.

For your own private bedroom in a shared apartment, the annual cost comes to about the same as nine months in a shared MSU dorm room, but food is not included at The Hub.

International students, who are expected to stay on campus for part or all of winter break, pay MSU about $1,000 more per year for a bed in a double-room at MSU, and at The Hub they pay the same as everyone else.

Some parents may be willing to pay extra for what Core Spaces says it offers them: “giving parents peace of mind.” Elevators are only accessible by key-fob, the front door of the building is locked outside of normal business hours, and a third-party company is hired to patrol the space. The equivalent of resident assistants are compensated to be on-call 24 hours.

So, what’s offered in the communal spaces of the building?

Walking into the atrium of the building, residents are greeted with a large open space and a ceiling that reaches to the top of the second story. Modern chandeliers, modeled to appear as hanging jump ropes, light the space.

Above: Lobby spaces in The Hub (photos by Raymond Holt).

Here, I met with Travis Hotz, The Hub’s local property manager, to find out more about what Core Spaces thinks “The Hub lifestyle” is. To Hotz, The Hub lifestyle is first and foremost about building community among campus, the residents, and the friends and families of residents.

To build this sense of community, The Hub offers events designed to bring these three elements together, varying from Super Bowl pizza parties to spa treatments. Hub resident Clay Wilson said he particularly appreciated the occasional catered meals, which he felt saved him time during more hectic parts of the semester and introduced him to The Hub team.

Hub residents also enjoy exclusive access to East Lansing’s only rooftop pool. While the pool is currently closed for the season, one of the two hot tubs is still open, the steam rising into the cold winter air.

Above: The hot tub on the roof of the Hub, and Sparty standing guard (photos by Raymond Holt)

The pool and hot tubs are only one part of the rooftop entertainment area. Space for tailgate games, picnic tables, grills, and even an outdoor TV make a state-of-the-art cookout possible for residents. Hotz said that some students took advantage of these amenities even on the nicer winter days that we have enjoyed recently in East Lansing.

Residents also enjoy indoor communal amenities. For student-residents like Clay Wilson, the gym and free printing are big hits. When Hotz gave a tour of The Hub to Eli photographer Raymond Holt and me, students were huddled in study lounges, printing assignments, and enjoying the complimentary coffee that perfumed the air.

Above: A study room and computer lab with printer at The Hub (photos by Raymond Holt)

The gym offers standard equipment such as weights, treadmills, and ellipticals, but a special room is also available for residents to select and complete workout routines from an electronic cache of videos. After a workout, Hub residents can relax in either the steam room or sauna.

Above: Fitness spaces in The Hub (photos by Raymond Holt)

And the private spaces?

On our tour, Hotz showed us two model furnished studios that The Hub maintains. We entered a room fully lit with the television running on a loop, showing various properties across the United States owned and operated by The Hub’s parent company, Core Spaces.

Core Spaces says it offers residents a greener lifestyle. According to the written responses that Core Management provided to my questions, each unit offers, “efficient lighting, programmable thermostats, sustainable shower heads and faucets, and low-e windows.”

The midsize Diamond Studio that Hotz showed us offered these, as well as an in-apartment washer and dryer and sizable bathroom.

Above: The bathroom and kitchenette/desk area in model studio apartment at The Hub in East Lansing (photos by Raymond Holt)

The Hub has also responded to East Lansing residents’ requests for accessible recycling, something not offered at all Core Management properties. Residents can drop trash down chutes provided on each floor and take recycling to bins located near the rear of the building. (Some residents have said that, in practice, the recycling is getting mixed up with the trash, a perpetual problem at rental properties, including those serviced by the East Lansing public waste management system.)

Residents can choose from a variety of floor plans and amenities. According to Core, two and three-bedroom units and double occupancy units are often more affordable, but some residents opt for either the “VIP” or “Spa” packages at higher prices.

Both packages are meant to provide restricted floor access, meaning only residents of the floors can enter and exit the elevator there. (In practice, reports from the building indicated the restriction technology wasn’t working properly for weeks after the building opened.)

The VIP amenities are tech-oriented, offering voice-activated smart-home technology, a showerhead with a Bluetooth speaker built-in, a 65-inch 4K smart TV, in-unit sound systems, light dimmers, upgraded refrigerators and closets. The Spa package is more luxury-oriented, providing a lighted vanity mirror and heated towel rack in addition to Bluetooth rain showerheads and columns, a 65-inch 4K smart TV, light dimmers, and upgraded closets.

Location, location, location:

The convenience of the area east of Bogue Street between Grand River Avenue and the Red Cedar River — known as “the East Village” — has long attracted students moving off campus, even as the older housing options have lacked the amenities of The Hub.

Residents of the area can easily walk to class and downtown shops and restaurants, and residents of The Hub now have in-building access to the new 7-Eleven store.

Above: Exterior of The Hub along Grand River Ave. (photo by Raymond Holt)

Core Spaces believes that its East Lansing location’s rent actually winds up cheaper compared to many of its competitors’ because it offers fully furnished apartments and walkability. Management emphasizes that its downtown location, abutting MSU, makes life without a car simple.

Wilson, a grad student in accounting, said he only needs to walk down Bogue Street to make it to the business school within a couple of minutes.

CATA bus Route 1 runs right down Grand River Avenue, connecting residents to amenities, internships, and jobs in Meridian Township and Lansing. CATA buses that run on campus are free to students, and students can purchase semester unlimited bus passes for $50 for off-campus routes. Come spring, The Hub hopes to start a bike rental program, and it already offers covered bike and moped storage space in the internal ramps.

Above: Internal parking in The Hub. The low parking-to-resident ratio made the project's approval controversial (photo by Raymond Holt).

But, despite all these car-free options, many residents choose to pay extra for the parking available at The Hub. Most spots were occupied when we saw one level of the parking structure, and representatives of The Hub say in-building parking is about 95 percent leased.

A bumpy start:

Following unanimous approval of the project by City Council, construction on The Hub began in the spring of 2018 on the former site of Georgio’s Pizza and 7-Eleven. In a little over a year, the apartments opened. The new 7-Eleven opened just this past week, and Georgio’s new location on the ground floor of The Hub should follow soon.

The quick push to open, however, left some residents with a less than ideal move-in situation, similar to problems The Hub faced when it opened in West Lafayette, Indiana. Overloaded with new residents, the process was slow and caused congestion in the area. Moreover, some residents complained that The Hub didn’t live up to its billing including in terms of responsiveness by management to problems. (Construction and management concerns have also been raised about Hub projects in Kentucky, Alabama, and Indiana.)

Core Spaces management admits the East Lansing move-in was a real problem, but says it has taken steps to remedy some concerns. They say management went door-to-door after move-in to address maintenance concerns and launched an app through which residents can place maintenance requests.

For the next move-in cycle, management plans to spread the process over several days and partner with ELPD to control traffic.

We will find out next week whether East Lansing’s City Council thinks it’s time for another Hub. Read more about the new proposal here.

Alice Dreger contributed reporting. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info