LETTER TO THE EDITOR: University Apartments may be gone, but what happened there is not


Genevieve Guenther

Shea Huse, UNCW Academic Advisor

There was a groundbreaking celebration that board members, directors, and the chancellor attended. There were pictures taken of everyone standing in front of the new construction with smiles on their faces and shovels in their hands. There was a story on the home page of the website, an article in the student newspaper, and a piece printed in the alumni magazine. There were plans showing what the future buildings will look like and statistics about how many rooms, students, and amenities they will hold.

To everyone there, tearing down the University Apartments was a big step toward improving on-campus housing at UNCW. The plans had been in the works for years in order to meet the needs of the growing campus and to upgrade the old, dirty, and worn apartments at the back of campus. They were making big strides in the strategic plan and greatly improving the campus experience for future students.

As they destroyed all of the buildings, planned a celebration, and then shared how exciting it was, did they realize that a husband and wife met right there in between their two apartment buildings? Did they know that girls moved into those buildings as roommates and left as lifelong best friends? It makes you wonder if they ever thought about the fact that one of those old apartments, that had floors covered in sand, was the first place a girl ever felt like she had a home of her own.

Shea Huse
UNCW’s University Apartments in 2018, captured a few months after Huse began working at the school.

They had just been biking around their old apartments, feeling that sense of nostalgia that only a few places in the whole world can make a person feel, and then one day, walking around campus after a meeting, it was all gone. Walking by the chain-link fence, you could look through and try to picture what used to be there. You could still walk toward Chancellor’s Walk on the same path that connected the apartments to the rest of campus, but when you turn around for one last look, like you always did, your heart might break a little.

Falling in love with places is usually easy because they are always supposed to be there for you to go back to, but you can still remember. Remember the walks to class, sitting at the picnic table with friends, having a fire in the grill and feeling like it was the perfect Southern, summer night.

Picture the living room where that husband and wife first talked and where roommates took all of their mattresses out to for a sleepover. Remember volleyball games, skim boarding in a hurricane, packing up to go to the beach, getting ready for nights out, the route to the boys’ apartment, and climbing on the roof one night to look at the stars.

Shea Huse
UNCW’s University Apartments when Huse arrived prior to the beginning of fall semester in 2011.

None of the people that made the plans or worked on the construction knew what they were taking away or what they would leave underneath all of the dirt and rubble that replaced the buildings that used to be there. Maybe once the construction is done, that part of campus will be pretty to walk around again. Maybe the ones of us that didn’t see it as an upgrade will still be able to remember everything that happened there and the feelings the place gave us and the importance of those apartments.

Even though it will never be quite the same, they can’t take away the ground where we all fell in love with a place, with people, with our lives. The ground where everything changed, where we found out who we are, and where our futures were beginning. The place we lived while we were having the best year of our lives that was setting us up for amazing lives that we had only dreamed of.

We’ll walk on the same sidewalk leading to the back of campus, stand on the same ground, close our eyes, and we’ll be right back there as nineteen-year-olds who felt like anything was possible. It still is.