RICHMOND, Va. – During prolonged stretches of freezing weather, when temperatures even dipped below zero, hundreds of Richmond residents – in both government and privately-owned housing complexes — have gone without heat and faced deplorable living conditions.
Residents are scrambling to find new places to live as the City of Richmond condemns units at The Flats at Ginter Park, a sprawling 4.5-acre Northside apartment complex built in the 1940s, and other nearby properties. Most of the buildings flank Chamberlayne Avenue and Old Brook Road, and some are sprinkled through Ginter Park. Though some buildings are in different locations, they are under the same ownership.
Cedar Grove Partners LLC, a New York-based company, owns the estimated 24 properties, according to city records.
“This is certainly one of the bigger projects that we have undertaken,” John Walsh, Richmond Code Enforcement Operations Manager, said.
So far 12 buildings and at least 44 units have been condemned, with more placarded; the process used by the city to flag unfit or unsafe properties. Walsh said that the city is working to do this in a way that “does not overwhelm the system,” as other agencies will provide aid and assistance to tenants left in a lurch.
CBS 6 first reported on this apartment complex in January 2017, when multiple residents were without heat. Since then other residents have come forward. The issues abound: falling ceilings, no working heat or water, mold, and unsafe structures.
Cedar Grove Partners LLC, a New York-based company, owns the properties.
As the dire situation unfolds, here are some answers to explain how the issue became so bad, how many places around the city have been highlighted, and what steps the city are taking to help residents.
How many properties does this company own?
Locally, they have over 800 to 1,000 units, according to Walsh, and around 25 buildings.
How many buildings have been condemned?
Currently 12 buildings have been condemned and at least 44 units. The City of Richmond said inspectors met with Flats management and explained the seriousness of the hazards tenants are being exposed to and the potential catastrophic failure the properties are undergoing. More will be condemned but the city is trying to establish a pace as to not overwhelm the system.
When did they acquire the properties?
Cedar Grove Partners LLC moved into the Richmond market in late August 2015 when they first purchased 12 apartment buildings along Chamberlayne Avenue, according to city records. According to RichmondBizSense.com (RBS), they bought the properties in three different transactions. At the time of the sale, a broker told RBS that he would “expect them to hold onto the properties, add value, and then sell them maybe within 10 years.” The first reporting CBS 6 did on the apartments was in January 2017, when residents didn’t have heat.
What are some of the issues?
According to Property Maintenance Enforcement Inspector Andre Smith, there are numerous and varying issues. The construction issues: the exterior and interior of many buildings are unsafe, due to a lack of maintenance; structural members (roof to ceilings/floor to walls or columns) have been compromised and could collapse; defective surfaces throughout the property are in disrepair –windows and frames, doors and frames, wood surfaces, mold, painting. The electrical, plumbing, HVAC, are all in significant disrepair. Also, there is water leaking, uncapped sewer lines, rodents and an accumulation refuse in units, crawl spaces and basements.
There are sink holes that pose trip/fall hazards throughout the properties. All are adversely affecting the Premier Garden rental community and other rental districts owned/managed by the Flats.