THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, Posted Aug 15, 2011
The 188-unit complex generates complaints as a hot spot for crime, residents complain of neglect, the city vows to take action and the apartments’ owner — James Green Management of Granite City — promises improvements to the property, better the screening of tenants, enhanced security. The improvements never arrive. Actually, the most recent chapter in the grim history of this crumbling, neglected property is slightly different. After city inspectors last week issued 55 pages worth of building code violations, Green Management issued no pledge to implement a new plan to rehabilitate the complex. It’s been unavailable for comment.
And it also has a different, and we believe, much more satisfactory ending, as the city gave the owner an ultimatum to bring the apartment buildings up to code or face further action.
“If this property owner fails to make progress, I’m sure our legal department will bring this property owner to his knees,” said Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, who spearheaded the inspection effort. It took a search warrant obtained at the behest of McMenamin, in whose ward MacArthur Park is located, for city inspectors to get into the complex. Previously, they had been denied access to the seven vacant, four-unit buildings inspected last week. What they found was outrageous but hardly surprising considering the history of neglect at MacArthur Park. In less than an hour, inspectors placed “unsafe and dangerous” placards on six of the units.
Piles of trash, exposed wiring, holes in walls and missing floorboards were among the many problems city officials noted. The city gave Green Management a week to obtain building permits to fix the electrical, mechanical, plumbing and housing violations and 10 days to register the buildings as vacant. If these conditions aren’t met, the city will take further action in court.
Kudos to McMenamin for initiating a process that will not end in more empty promises from an absentee landlord.
Speaking of outrageous, mortgage records show the owner borrowed $8 million against MacArthur Park in 2008, McMenamin found. This would have been around the time that, by our headline narrative, improvement plans at the property were “behind schedule.”
For more than a decade, this complex has been arguably the most egregious example of absentee landlord neglect in the city. The process that started last week must become an example to other out-of-town property owners that Springfield will not tolerate neglect and will no longer accept lip service about improvements that never arrive.