Verging on predatory: Edge Merrimack River’s shady marketing practices

Andrew Sciascia
Connector Editor

“Find Your Freedom.”

Chances are, if you have been active on the UMass Lowell campus this semester you have encountered Edge Merrimack River.

You’ve seen them tabling by our dining halls. You’ve heard their pitch. And chances are, if you saw the email from Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Larry Siegel to parents on the topic of Edge Merrimack River, you know of the conflict that has been simmering between Edge and UMass in recent months.

What you may not know, however, could save you frustrations, a possibly negative living experience and money.

Edge Merrimack River may just be the shadiest, most predatory party attempting to sell off-campus housing to our student body.

The shadiness may just begin with the fact that they’ve marketed themselves to look like they’re a UMass Lowell property. They’ve allowed countless students to believe they are.

As assistant news editor for The Connector I had the opportunity to meet with the owner and developers of the Edge facility, Rick and Mary Shaffer, and Vice Chancellor Siegel separately to discuss the conflict this past week in a media capacity.

The following was my takeaway from the meeting sessions.

The difference was plain and simple. It could not have been made more clear. Edge Merrimack does not have the best interests of the student body in mind. They seemingly care only for their image and their pockets.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are deeds that must be brought to the attention of UMass Lowell students. In your time with them, Edge Merrimack has likely kept some key information from you.
The Lowell Sun has reported that Edge was recently issued an enforcement order for illegally dumping snow, and more importantly roofing debris, into the Merrimack River of late.

UMass Lowell and its students have long been known for their efforts to maintain an environmentally friendly, “green” campus. This is not something our student body is likely to appreciate or stand for, which explains the fact that they you have likely not been made aware.

In their marketing campaign, the Edge has twice been issued formal cease-and-desist orders from the UMass Lowell legal office.

One such order was issued for the illegal use of Rowdy the River Hawk in the marketing campaign. Edge Merrimack is not affiliated with the university and had no right to do so.

The second order was issued for soliciting on campus. Despite being issued this order, you have likely noticed that Edge and its employees have not stopped dropping fliers all over campus illegally.

Edge Merrimack River has indicated that it would provide shuttle transport for residents, yet has not indicated how many shuttles would run or how often. Nor have they indicated where shuttles would make drops on campus.

With on-campus students already up in arms about university shuttle service, who is to say the Edge would be any better. And as it is located a solid 15-minute walk down-river this is a key matter for students.

Too many times Edge Merrimack River has been caught playing fast and loose with our students and with the university.

It is my hope that these misdeeds and miscommunications were made without negative intentions. But I am unconvinced.

In my meeting with Joel Burton, vice president of marketing and leasing, and the Shaffers, I felt personally disrespected as they slandered the university and underestimated the intelligence of its students.

Countless times throughout the meeting downright rude comments were made about how all the “spoiled” students want is “their own space,” and Edge Merrimack River was “teaching UMass Lowell how to market” and exposing them. Each disrespectful comment was one-upped moments later.

To make matters worse, each of these comments by Burton or the Shaffers was followed with a “You know… Off the record, of course.”
If Edge has nothing to hide, why are their higher ups looking to keep comments made to media “off the record.”

This is a frail attempt to keep the disrespect out of the public eye, attempting to ensure that their possible customers, your friends and classmates, won’t hear what is being said behind closed doors.

They want your patronage. They want you to spend money comparable to what you spend for on-campus housing for an untested facility that isn’t even completed yet. They don’t care if it effects your financial aid. It is simple; they will hide and misdirect to make every dollar they can.

I would like to believe differently, but I feel that the Shaffer’s have misread our student body, and in doing so disrespected us with a poorly targeted and, frankly, predatory marketing campaign.

The students of the UMass Lowell are not rich, spoiled brats with no brains and money to spend. They are a hard-nosed, hard-working, diverse and thoughtful bunch. It’s a shame Edge Merrimack River felt they could take them to the cleaners.

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