Banks help clean up blight in Arlington

ARLINGTON -- Plenty of bad news is floating around concerning the economy, but the good news in Arlington is that the economy is helping clean up blight.

A Division Street budget motel known for open drug dealing and prostitution, and a dilapidated west Arlington apartment complex, have both been foreclosed on by banks.

For years, city officials have worked to get the previous owners of Town Inn Motel and the Castle Pines Apartments to clean up crime and code violations. Now the banks are doing the job, city officials said.

Late last month, crews finished demolishing the motel, 1717 E. Division, near Cowboys Stadium. The state attorney general's office had threatened to shut down the motel and two bars on the property because they were "a haven for criminal conduct."

City Attorney Jay Doegey called Town Inn the worst property in terms of blight and crime that he's seen during his 25 years with the city. It was a "real red letter day" when the motel was finally gone, he said.

"The land really is more valuable cleared than having that junk on it," Doegey said.

State lawsuit

From January 2009 to February 2010, when the attorney general sued the owner on the city's behalf, police reported 15 drug violations and arrests at the property, as well as a robbery, a sexual assault and shots fired.

Police also said the property generated three times as many calls for service as comparable motels along Division, one reason that the state declared the property a nuisance.

Undercover officers also bought methamphetamine from motel guests, found drug paraphernalia in the rooms, seized cocaine from a bar patron and arrested a motel employee on suspicion of selling drugs, according to police.

Now the city looks to have the bank repair or tear down another building on the motel site. It houses the La Chiripa Bar and the former La Perla Bar.

Castle Pines

Across town, another bank is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate Castle Pines, on Woodland Park Boulevard. The 41-year-old complex remains vacant while the lender works to remove mold, widen fire lanes, replace broken sidewalks and address other problems that Community Services Director Lee Hitchcock said are the result of years of "inadequate maintenance throughout the complex."

In July 2007, the city gave the west-side complex an inspection score of minus 168 because of numerous violations, including faulty electrical wiring and plumbing, graffiti, broken windows, potholes and overflowing trash bins. The city conducted the aggressive inspection after management was slow to repair a sewage leak flowing into the parking lot and a creek.

The next month, the complex received even more citations in 2007 after a toddler drowned in its swimming pool, which did not have a locking gate.

In the months before the foreclosure, Arlington was still receiving complaints from tenants, mostly about sewage overflow problems, Hitchcock said.

Now that the lender has taken over, the complex is expected to be brought up to code and reopened by fall, city officials said.

"The economy, in an unfortunate way, has helped the city address problem properties," at-large Councilman Jimmy Bennett said. "It's in the lenders' best interest to improve the property so they have a much better chance of selling it."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639