GCU assisting displaced Serrano Village families, trying to acquire property
Grand Canyon University is in the process of acquiring a nearby apartment complex that had fallen into disrepair and is helping the residents find alternative housing in the neighborhood.
After declining the opportunity to purchase Serrano Village Apartments, at 2828 W. Camelback Road, on multiple occasions over the past two years, GCU agreed on Oct. 27 to acquire the property after it learned that residents had been given notice to vacate the premises by Dec. 1 so that major repairs involving mechanical, water and sewer problems could occur.
“Our students have a history of ministering to the residents of Serrano Village, most of whom are refugees from other parts of the world,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “We didn’t want to see them displaced without any assistance or have the property fall into the hands of an absentee owner who might allow for the potential of a criminal element on the property that didn’t previously exist.”
Regardless of whether or not it completes the acquisition, GCU immediately provided $100,000 in relocation assistance funds to ensure that every family at Serrano Village is provided the necessary resources to make a smooth transition into a new residence that meets each family’s specific needs. As part of the relocation program, GCU is also attempting to ensure that all families remain in the Alhambra Elementary School District. The relocation fund will assist with moving expenses, new deposits, first month’s rent and other needs, as necessary, to support the families at Serrano Village.
The 124-unit apartment complex, which was built in 1973, is on the verge of condemnation because many of the building systems and components have not been upgraded since its original construction. Water lines, windows, roof systems, HVAC units, fixtures and asphalt are among the repairs needed to bring the complex up to livable standards.
REG LLC acquired the property when it foreclosed in February and put it back on the market in September as a redevelopment opportunity. Early this fall, it had begun to vacate residents so that repairs such as water line replacements could occur. It was listed for sale as an “opportunity to acquire a well-located apartment community with a tremendous value-add strategy with multiple redevelopment opportunities including student housing.”
“At that point, we were inundated with calls from developers across the country interested in demolishing Serrano Village and developing a new apartment complex for off-campus student housing marketed to GCU students,” Mueller said. “Rather than have it fall into the hands of an absentee owner who would either fail to make the necessary investment to make the complex adequate for current residents or permanently displace existing Serrano Village families and build off-campus student housing, we decided to purchase the property at this time in an effort to ensure that the current residents are cared for properly and to ensure that any redevelopment efforts will benefit our students and our community.
“The first thing we’re going to do is make sure the families of that complex are taken care of,” Mueller added. “Down the road, we’re looking at some redevelopment ideas for that property that could provide joint usage of the area by both the community and GCU.”
Phoenix Vice Mayor Daniel Valenzuela, the District 5 representative for the Phoenix City Council, said “the acquisition by GCU, and the manner in which it is assisting these residents, is an example of responsible growth that should be applauded.”