Neighbors ready to see apartments gone

Dec. 31, 2012 @ 08:23 PM

Richard Jenkins hopes the view will soon be a lot different outside his Meredith Street home.
Jenkins said he and his neighbors are eagerly awaiting the proposed demolition of six vacant apartment buildings across the street from his house. The City Council in October ordered the 24 units torn down after finding that the buildings’ owner, Schwarz Properties LLC of Asheboro, had given up on making the apartments fit for human habitation.
Jenkins said the boarded-up buildings, which the city closed in 2010 because of minimum housing code violations, are not just an eyesore and a blight on the neighborhood. The property has been a magnet for open-air drug dealing and other criminal activity, he said, not to mention a safety hazard for his grandchildren and other neighborhood youth who play nearby.
“They definitely need to tear them down,” said Jenkins. “Just because it’s a ghetto doesn’t mean it has to look like a ghetto.”
The city’s demolition order takes effect Jan. 6, but that doesn’t mean bulldozers will be rolling the next day. The city must first hire a contractor to check the units for asbestos. If any is found, it will be removed, and then bids will go out for demolition, according to Katherine Bossi, local codes enforcement supervisor for the city.
While the buildings are structurally sound, the city ordered them closed and the tenants moved out after inspectors found plumbing and electrical problems, as well as other deficiencies within the units.
Schwarz representatives have repeatedly asked the city to put off demolition, pledging to bring the buildings up to code. City officials said the company has done this with only two of the eight buildings in the complex. As of Monday, one of them was occupied and the other was boarded up.
The other six buildings slated for demolition have long been abandoned. Utilities have been stripped off of them and all of the doors and first-floor windows are covered by boards.
Most of the buildings’ crawl spaces are open, and Jenkins said he has seen at least one unwelcome inhabitant coming and going and from them.
“I thought it was a cat at first. It wasn’t. It was a rat, and not a small one. It shook me up,” he said.
Bossi said Schwarz representatives have asked about submitting plans for repairs, but the council made it clear in October that it was too late for this.
“Of course, it was explained (repairs) needed to be complete, and they needed to have certificates of occupancy, so people could start moving in them,” said Bossi. “Just simply getting permits is not going to hold up anything on our end.”
It’s unclear when a demolition contract might be awarded. The cost is projected to be about $85,000, plus any asbestos-remediation expenses. The city’s costs will be placed as liens against the properties.

pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531