Home Money Opinion: Landlords at fault for local animosity towards students

Opinion: Landlords at fault for local animosity towards students

7 min read

In a town with a bleak history of camaraderie between fulltime residents and Ohio University students, the destruction of Stimson Avenue’s BellaVino, a wine and craft beer shop, earlier this month will do nothing to help that relationship. The 110-year-old building, purchased nearly a year ago by Pigskin Sports Bar & Grill owner Ric Wasserman, has been serving students and Athens residents with some form of carryout service for over half of a century. Its demolition will make way for new student housing on the property, Stimson Garden Apartments.

For those not familiar with this location, it is one that further pushes the boundaries of Ohio’s famed party central near Mill Street and Palmer Street farther out toward residential areas of Athens by crossing over Stimson Avenue. The homes that lie in between Stimson Avenue and East State Street can often be found littered with Big Wheels, swing sets and gardens as opposed to the beer cans, year round Christmas lights and solo cups found across the majority of student properties.

Local residents and neighborhood groups throughout the city stood up in opposition to Wasserman’s plans, including the Athens County Historical Society. The building in question was originally erected as a stable used to house pack animals used in a local brick factory. This perceived historical significance is what upset the historical society. Though whether or not the thought that an old building once housed donkeys and goats that were probably overworked to transport bricks upsets you, the issue at hand is what continued growth such as this will do to further damage the student/resident relationship in Athens. But is it really the students that are to blame, or are our local landlords at fault?

In the time an Ohio University student will spend living off-campus while attending school in Athens, they will be hard pressed to have an experience with a landlord that comes without stress or complaints. From leaky ceilings to prehistoric cave centipedes to basements that flood every time you need to wash some sheets, the student-landlord relationship is not always a cordial one despite it being a necessary one. And with Athens landlords consistently allowing residents to move into houses with previously unaddressed code violations and living by the belief that location outweighs these risks while charging rent, no one should expect the relationship to be a friendly one. Despite these shortcomings, it is the students that get the majority of the blame from local Athenians.

As landlords continue to buy up properties and run down homes that push the boundaries of student living to the farther reaches of Athens, the animosity toward our existence here will only continue to grow. And with the explosion of cheaply made three-story apartment buildings that are especially prevalent on Stewart Street, it is clear that it is more profitable to demolish traditional Athens homes and replace them with cheap eyesores that can be built in ten quick weeks than to keep up the traditional Athens college houses that give this town a culture and an identity akin to our historic main campus. When given the choice between making a quick buck and respecting our towns’ image, the buck stops at the check book.

With a stagnant economy and rising tuition costs, heading farther away from campus to spend less money on housing is a smart decision for students to make. We choose to move where we can and for the most part do our best to respect the full-time Athens residents around us. So do we deserve the blame we are bound to get for the ever expanding student housing lines? The answer is no.

The fault lies with Athens rental companies as they continue to take advantage of students and locals alike. As for the future of BellaVino? Well don’t worry; Wasserman has plans to allow its reopening in the basement of his new complex. A perfect place assuming recent trends continue with our landowners continuing to bury this town’s past without much concern for its future, only their own.

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