To avoid a foreclosure sale, the bank in charge of the vacant, dilapidated Pennington Place apartment complex near Richmond Road and New Circle Road has agreed to secure the site and clean it up while a buyer is sought.
The property was set to be sold at a master commissioner foreclosure sale June 27 to pay $97,000 that was owed to the city for a lengthy list of code violations. But TCF National Bank, which holds the mortgage on the 41-year-old complex, and the Urban County Government reached an agreement this summer that both sides hope will make it more marketable.
Under the agreement, the city postponed foreclosure proceedings for six months to give the bank time to find a viable buyer. The bank paid half the fines and put the other half into an escrow account to pay for maintenance and security.
During the past 30 days, the property's overgrown grass has been mowed, debris has been picked up, first-floor doors and windows have been boarded up, fencing has been installed and 24-hour security has been hired.
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"The property looks 100 percent better, which is hard to imagine because if you see it today, it still isn't great," said councilwoman KC Crosbie, who represents the Wood hill neighborhood.
Crosbie said she spent more time during the past year dealing with problems related to Pennington Place — previously named Saddlebrook Apartments, English Manor and Archstone Green — than any other issue in her district.
"All kinds of illegal activity goes on there," including drug use, gang tagging, theft of copper from air conditioning units and squatters living in vacant units, she said.
"You name it, we saw it there."
Since the complex was boarded up and secured, frequent police and fire calls to the property, "which are a big expense to the city," have been reduced, Crosbie said.
If the 20-acre property at 245 Codell Drive is not sold by Nov. 1, the agreement stipulates that TCF bank will ask Fayette Circuit Court to reschedule the master commissioner's sale no later than Dec. 31.
The bank and the city say it's in their best interest to avoid a forced sale.
For the city, a foreclosure sale could bring a buyer who would not permanently improve the apartment complex, which has been plagued with crime, vagrants, fires and vermin in recent years.
And the bank does not want to be stuck holding a problem property.
"All things considered, the best approach was to work through this with the bank so we can have a successful real estate development there," said Mayor Jim Gray, who has taken a personal interest in the property.
Gray has visited the site several times during the past two years.
"I look at a property like that and see an apple that rots from the core," he said Thursday. "That is why the neighbors are concerned, and they should be. That is why we are pushing into high gear our efforts to find a solution."
The apartment complex, built in 1970, was bought by Edward F. Streit of Aurora, Ill., for $11 million in 2005, according to Property Valuation Administration records.
Streit has since died. Marty Krogman, senior vice president of special assets for TCF in Minneapolis, said the bank does not comment on confidential client matters.
Realtor Jim Arnold, who owns an office building adjoining Pennington Place, called the site an eyesore.
He's confident that the site, which is zoned R-3 for apartments, town houses, single family houses and duplexes, will be revitalized because it's too valuable to remain vacant, "just like Lexington Mall, across the street."
"But in the short run, it causes a lot of concern," Arnold said.
Charles Myers, owner of Flowers From Myers on nearby Woodhill Drive, said his main concern is about Pennington Place being torn down.
"We'll probably have rats we could ride on invade our building," Myers said.