In the four years Maciek Wojtas spend on Augustana’s campus, he details many fond memories.
That includes meeting his wife and they’re now awaiting the birth of their first child.
But there’s one part of his time as a Viking that wasn’t triumphant. The senior year he spent living off-campus.
“Where they didn’t have heat for several days or their toilet wasn’t working, it’s kind of why I learned how to sleep with a pillow over my head because of the draft that was always coming in during winter,” said Properties Plus, LLC owner Maciek Wojtas.
That inspired him to keep other students from being marred by that experience.
After graduating in 2009, he bought his first house near campus and spent the next two years remodeling and restoring the gutted house.
Wojtas said, “I was able to get a job with my degree from Augustana and on my weekends, I would come and work on the house.”
It came a long way from the house be bought.
Wojtas said standing in the attic where sheets of drywall and exposed walls, “This is a good depiction of what I’ve started off with.”
It’s after fire tour through that uppermost space.
Wojtas said, “It was a disaster. All these smoldering appliances and countertops and linoleum flooring.”
Ten years later, he has eight properties, six of which are filled with tenants.
“Take my now finance degree and accounting degree, construction background and start renovating these houses, these distressed properties turning them into beautiful places for senior students,” said Wojtas.
Now it’s so nice it’s hard to think of this place as college housing.
Wojtas said, “High ceilings, the crown moldings, I mean these are usually things you don’t find in a standard student rental.”
It’s Maciek’s Midas touch turning a gutted house into the lap of luxury for Juliana Keaty and her roommates.
Senior Juliana Keaty said, “I have friends who live in houses that have carpets on the wall and it’s not a good situation.”
They got in well before the house was finished while still in the second year of college.
Keaty said, “When we signed it [lease] it was just the studs.”
The Augie grad said he took a gamble at being a landlord.
“Being all open, gutted to the exterior walls to slowly building everything into the finishing things like the cabinets, stainless steel appliances and once you have the students come in and start living here, that’s the ultimate joy,” said Wojtas.
But more than helping students enjoy their final year without worrying about being in shabby accommodations, Wojtas mission is making a difference in the community.
He’s saving old homes from the wrecking ball, restoring, modernizing and making a massive reinvestment into the neighborhood.
Wojtas said, “Distressed home that is vacant, sometimes for many years and you turn it into pretty much a brand new house and that raises their property values.”
Even though it will be a home for just one year, for its residents, it will be a hard place to leave.
Keaty said, “After I graduate, I’m going to be downgrading, going from this house to whatever house I’m moving to after.”
Wojtas said many times he has his student rentals leased out a year or two in advance.
Even though he lives in Chicago, he said he returns to the QC at least every other week.