The purchase of an east Augusta apartment complex by a New Jersey real estate company has given residents hope for additional improvements to their current living conditions.
“These apartments are terrible inside,” Ambra Eyers said of her home at River Glen Apartments, 201 E. Telfair St.
She said the apartment where she lives with her 1- and 3-year-olds has a leaking roof and several issues in the bathroom. Another resident, Gabrielle Harris, said mold covers her bathroom.
Residents said work orders have gone ignored. Reporting the conditions to the media only makes things worse, some residents said, and calls to code enforcement seem to be the only way to get results.
In June, the 192-unit complex was cited by code enforcement for about 250 health and safety code violations that included a lack of smoke detectors; broken windows; water leaks; and damage to floors, ceilings and walls.
The Aspen Cos. has purchased the complex and vowed to make “vast upgrades” and put security guards on site.
Harris likes the idea of the proposed upgrades – which include roofing, common area hallways, landscaping, new playground equipment and interior apartment renovations – but she’s skeptical.
“If it’s going to benefit us that’s perfectly fine, but if it’s going to stay the same, then PK Management may as well have kept it,” she said.
GHC Housing Partners previously owned the apartments, but its affiliate PK Management managed the property.
Tara Freeman, who has lived at River Glen for 15 years, said she looks forward to a better playground and hopes to see the new owners add a basketball court and computer room for the older kids.
“It’d be something to keep them out of trouble,” she said.
The previous owners had been working to reverse the complex’s reputation for being dangerous and crime-ridden after two homicides within a month of each other in early 2012.
“Crime has gone down a lot,” Harris said.
Since 2009, River Glen has been the site of five homicides. Even though the complex provides housing only for women and children, all of the victims were male.
Richmond County sheriff’s Special Operations Capt. Steve Strickland said it’s the outsiders who have no stake in the community who are causing the majority of the problems.
“The vast majority of people at River Glen we have no contact with because they come home and don’t bother anyone,” Strickland said.
Because it’s an apartment complex full of women, the complex sees a high number of male visitors, who bring trouble and crime to the neighborhood, he said.
Police have been trying to increase patrols and crack down on men visiting the complex, but residents said it borders on harassment at times.
“They don’t realize that half of the men have kids out here,” Eyers said.
Since 2010, police have been dispatched to River Glen more than 3,000 times.
Documents obtained through the sheriff’s office show more than 400 calls for verbal altercations and more than 350 for physical altercations. There have been nearly 200 for weapons-related incidents, about 50 for assaults and more than 130 instances of shots fired. The vast majority of the calls, however, more than 750, are from residents reporting suspicious vehicles, people and circumstances.
Police have been trying to break past the fear residents have of retaliation for reporting crime.
“To fix the problem at River Glen it has to be a joint effort in law enforcement, the people who live there and management,” Strickland said.
The new owners said they are aware of the crime element and have plans to put security on site and meet with residents.
The company claims it has been successful at cutting crime at its other properties.
Renovations to the management office, community room and laundry are expected to begin this month.