Frat life, facilities, foreigners at the Cambridge Oxford

Let's hope the 13th and 14th residential colleges look just as nice.
Let's hope the 13th and 14th residential colleges look just as nice. // Jacob Geiger

As a handful of students make their way down frat row tonight to celebrate the start of spring break, they’ll pass by a building known to be more refined — and more exclusive — than the houses of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon, the Cambridge Oxford Apartments. Located at 32 High St., the twin buildings are home to a host of Yalies who have chosen its “artful blend of Jacobian, Romanesque and Greek revival architecture” over more modest abodes on Howe Street or Lynwood Ave (or, dare we say it, on campus). When the buildings were initially built in the early 1900s, their first tenants were office workers, among whose numbers were an assistant secretary of the National Folding Box company, two bookkeepers and the national secretary of The Friends of Boys. Nowadays, the building is known for housing some of the wealthier members of the off-campus cohort. For the past two years, the Cambridge Oxford’s property manager has been Nicole Sore, a young resident of Stamford, Conn., who oversees the building’s 85 apartments. Once she graduated from Johnson and Wales University with a degree in corporate event planning, Sore was met with a difficult job market, and she entered the real estate industry after landing a leasing consultant job. What she thought was going to be a “temporary thing” turned into a permanent passion, she told WEEKEND, after Sore realized she enjoyed the opportunities for human interaction in property management positions. Earlier this week, Sore spoke to us about fitness training, the New Haven restaurant scene and sharing a street with the SAE brothers.

Q. What attracted you to the Cambridge Oxford?
A. It’s a wonderful building. The two buildings — the Cambridge and the Oxford — are very historic, and I love historic buildings. I immediately fell in love with the architecture, which is … [Sore pauses to check] … called an artful blend of Jacobian, Romanesque and Greek revival styles. And everyone here is very nice. I had never actually been to New Haven before I started working here, but now I think the location is really great.

Q. Speaking of location, the apartment building is one of the off-campus housing options closest to the downtown area, and it is known for having a rather long waitlist. How many Yale students typically end up on the waitlist, and what do you think makes the Cambridge Oxford so appealing?
A. Typically, our waitlist varies every year, but it can range anywhere from 30 to 60 applicants, of which there are probably 25 to 50 Yale students. There’s wonderful maintenance staff, wonderful management and residents feel very comfortable living here. They feel like they can walk at night to a restaurant because it’s close, and it’s also just convenient for them. There’s 24 hour maintenance, book delivery to their door, a gym on-site, and I’m looking into hiring a personal trainer for residents if they like. This trainer would offer nutrition and massage therapy, because a lot of our residents are very interested in fitness, and a few sports players live here. We also provide a very good price for the services we offer: The average rent for a one-bedroom is about $1550 a month not including electricity and heating. A lot of dorms don’t have air conditioning, but we have central heating and air conditioning.

Q. And what do you think is the draw for students to live off campus as opposed to in the university’s residential colleges?
A. I don’t really know how living on campus at Yale is, but I think it’s just a different experience. Off-campus, you get the responsibility of paying your rent, handing over a check — you learn more responsibility, I feel. From what I’ve heard and what I’ve experienced living on campus where I went to school, the policies were different. Sometimes, I have people ask me if I can live with a boy or a girl, and I say, yeah, of course, you can live with whomever you want, as long as you’re meeting our occupancy rule! But there might be rules that you don’t have on campus, like quiet hours. In general, you get to experience a lot more and take on a lot more responsibility. You give in a security deposit, you have to pay for damages when you move out, you can paint the walls if you want, you can put a flat screen on your wall if you want — I’m assuming you can’t do that on campus. There’s a difference between the things you can do here and the things you can do on campus.

Q. How would you describe the profile of the people who live in the Cambridge Oxford?
A. Demographics-wise, I’m not really allowed to say, because of the fair housing policy. It’s a good mixture of everyone — young professionals, families, older working professionals — just a great mixture. Not a lot of families, because they’re going to East Rock where it’s quieter, not quite the city life. Younger professionals and younger students will want to live in the city because of the nightlife, restaurants and shopping. The type of person who lives in the Cambridge Oxford is someone who wants to be in the heart of it all, who wants to be downtown, right near school and right near work. Those who are more used to living in a city-type setting.

Q. What about your frat brother neighbors? What is it like being on the same street as ‘frat row’?
A. It can be challenging, but what we do is we try our best to keep peace on High Street. I don’t get too many complaints, because we’ve really stepped up in the last few years. We hire the New Haven police to come and patrol High Street to make sure there isn’t a lot of noise. It’s a lot of money at our own cost, but it’s worth it. The police officers patrol the area around the building and make sure no one is getting loud — no partying or noise. Sometimes people who come to look at the building will ask about it, and I just tell them what I told you. They’re comforted by the fact that we do hire the police to come as an extra precaution. I don’t think there’s even been an issue with out-of-control partying, but I’m sure they would break up a party if they needed to. I think that over the last couple of years, things have changed: Students have gone other places, maybe. I assume they’ve gone other places. I think there’s another frat row — I think that’s where they go.

Q. And maybe some of your tenants are fraternity brothers, too. How would you describe your relationship with the residents of the building?
A. I know everyone’s first name. I get to know them professionally, but a little bit personally as well. I feel like I bond with them really well, and it’s just so nice to see everyone. They smile and say hi in the hallways. I also try to be persistent and firm when need be, but I’m generally very helpful, I would say. My fiancé was in the hospital last year, and when I had to take some time off work, one resident bought me flowers and everyone gave me well wishes and condolences. They were just very sympathetic towards me. That was a nice thing — to know that, nowadays, people still care. Everyone is usually so busy; they’re always doing their own thing. It’s nice to think that people are still thinking about other people in general, and not just being self-focused.

Q. It sounds like interacting with people is a large part of the job. Could you talk about some of the most interesting people you’ve met in your two years at the building?
A. I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of international people and learning about their cultures. It’s pretty interesting talking to different people who have travelled the world. They’re from all over: China, Japan, people from all over Europe, Australia and South America. They bring different viewpoints and different learning experiences for people who have never experienced that culture. The most rewarding aspect of the job is just helping people. I enjoy helping people in everything. I see the smile on their face and I feel like I’ve helped them find a home. It’s especially touching when the parents come to move in kids who are going to college away from home.

Q. A lot of people coming to New Haven for college do not have a good understanding of the city. What are some places you would recommend for them to visit during their time here?
A. The Yale Center for British Art, BAR pizza, the shopping area by Broadway with the Apple Store and Alex & Ani. They should also walk around Old Campus and look at the old architecture, the old buildings. I’ve been here for two years, and I’m still building memories within the community.

Q. What’s something about you that most of your tenants don’t know?
A. I like to rock climb! But I only do indoor gym, because I’m too afraid to go outside — it’s so scary! I’ve also been skydiving, but only because my fiancé and my friends talked me into it. I was so scared. I’ll never do it again.

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