Arlington sets aside $2 million to demolish troubled apartments

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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1-line 2 col subhed A proposed student housing apartment complex project that was set to be heard by Arlington City Council on Tuesday was postponed until January at the developer’s request. The council had voted 6-3 to reject Greystar Student Living’s plans back in August, saying the complex, which would have served 692 University of Texas at Arlington students, was too large for its proposed location at 815 W. Abram Street. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of a scaled-down version of Greystar Student Living’s Arlington Lofts project after a public hearing Oct. 16. The developer’s new proposal has nearly 100 fewer beds. Greystar is seeking to open Arlington Lofts by August 2015 for the start of UT Arlington’s fall semester. — Susan Schrock

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Fedrico Narabc will soon pay his November rent but he said he isn’t sure how much longer he’ll have a home at the La Joya Apartments in east Arlington.

“I like this place,” said Narabc, who has lived in his $600-per-month, all-bills-paid apartment nearly five years. “Everything is around here. The store, the church, the laundry rooms. I don’t have to use my car. I can just walk.”

Narabc is concerned because the City Council voted Tuesday to set aside nearly $2 million in natural gas revenue to relocate tenants and tear down the dilapidated nine-building apartment complex off New York Avenue. A municipal judge this year declared La Joya dangerous and substandard because of unsanitary and hazardous conditions.

Code compliance officers, responding to a report a year ago of flooding in one building, uncovered more than 1,000 violations in the complex, including mold, roaches, flood damage and leaking raw sewage. After the owner failed to meet court-ordered deadlines to bring the property up to code, Narabc and other tenants received notice Friday of the city’s intent to raze the 185-unit complex. Demolition could occur as soon as February if the city can’t reach an agreement with the owner to address hazardous conditions there, officials said.

Fannie Mae, which holds the note on the complex, has not responded to the city’s notice, said Mike Bass, assistant director of code compliance services. La Joya was formerly owned by Theodore Hansen of Utah, who was fined $82,000 by the city this year for 154 violations at the complex.

Besides approving a $1.3 million contract Tuesday for asbestos abatement and demolition, the council approved a $197,000 contract for relocation services and spending up to $456,000 to help tenants move to other housing.

A good transition

District 5 Councilwoman Lana Wolff, who represents east Arlington, said the city will work to address the tenants’ questions and concerns in the coming months. A city-contracted company is expected to work on site to help residents throughout the process, she said.

“Our No.1 goal is to meet their needs. We want them to have a good transition into a safe, livable place,” Wolff said.

Deputy City Manager Theron Bowman said it is the city’s understanding that Fannie Mae has put the note for La Joya up for sale. Arlington plans to work with whoever the new owner is to mitigate problems, but in the meantime it is moving forward to address problems there on its own, he said.

“There are safety concerns. We can’t wait months to negotiate,” Bowman said.

Recouping costs

The apartments, built in the 1950s and 1960s, are valued at nearly $3.3 million, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District. The city previously estimated a cost of $1.9 million to bring them up to code.

If demolition occurs, Arlington can place a lien on the property to recoup city expenses. The money will come from a natural gas revenue reserve fund, which can be used for one-time expenses, officials said.

“We will use whatever legal authorization is available to recover the maximum amount of dollars for the city,” Bowman said.

The city will also give tenants at least 90 days’ notice, Bowman said. That’s good news to Narabc, who said he was concerned not only about finding another affordable complex in east Arlington but also about having the money saved up for moving expenses and deposits.

“I want to stay in this area,” he said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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