Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Site of a Blighted Village City Property Set for New Use

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Site of a Blighted Village City Property Set for New Use

Article excerpt

Every time Village City Manager Bruce Stone looked out his office window he saw a blighted, crime-ridden apartment complex. Something needed to be done about the 436-unit Vintage Lakes Apartments.

Unable to lure a developer, the city in July took an unusual step: It bought the property for $3 million.

"We never intended to buy the property," Stone said. "Throughout this whole process we envisioned redeveloping the apartments and trying to provide the incentives for a developer to come in and buy the property."

Built in 1973 by special permit from the city, the complex, at 10301 N. Pennsylvania Ave., at times accounted for as much as 25 percent of all the crime in The Village. Paul Kinman, Village police chief, said burglary, gang activity and violent crime were prevalent at the apartments.

After bankruptcy and a fruitless sheriff's sale this year, the city had to consider the options for the 27-acre site. After the last 70 occupied apartments emptied in April, and an assessment of the property showed abundant asbestos and a crumbling infrastructure at the apartments, it was shut down.

"It was vacated before we bought it," Stone said. "If it had been occupied we would have been bound by law to pay for relocation costs."

Stone said the apartment complex was well-maintained for its first 10 to 15 years.

"After the sale to subsequent owners it started to go downhill," he said. "By the end of the '90s it had gone down significantly."

The city also suffered two major blows in 2001 and 2003 when it lost first a Wal-Mart, then an Albertson's grocery store.

In 2006 a tax increment financing plan was adopted for a 70-acre area that included the shuttered Wal-Mart, but in its recovery plans the city still wasn't looking to get into the real estate business.

Leslie Batchelor, general counsel to The Village Development Authority, helped the city establish the authority and walked them through the process when it was decided to buy Vintage Lakes. …

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