After fire torches Lake Highlands condos, residents wonder about vacant units

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by CARLA WADE

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WFAA

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 8:29 PM

Condo fire

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DALLAS -- More than nine years of great expectations for a Lake Highlands neighborhood were dashed when heavy smoke and flames demolished an entire block of condominiums Wednesday night.

The fire broke out in the 9400 block of Timberleaf Drive near Forest Lane and Abrams Road in Lake Highlands.

Smoke damage forced Zante Garcia out of her home. Thursday afternoon, she loaded up her car with clothes to spend the night in a hotel.

"They just recently sold them, and we got a notice that they were going to build and start construction on the units that were in between the two ends," Garcia said. "And then this fire happened."

All of the 18 units except for two were vacant, although that didn't make things much easier for firefighters who battled the blaze for more than four hours. Garcia said the mere fact that they were empty makes the fire suspicious in her eyes. She said there was no electricity or other utilities connected in any of the vacant condos.

The vacancies have been a sore spot for Pat Gilmore, who moved to the area nine years ago. At that time, Gilmore said there was a strong push to develop the area.

"We all got in here, and about six months later, the developer went bankrupt and it went into foreclosure," Gilmore said. "It has been that way since."

Court records show the buildings' ownership has changed hands three times since 2000. The previous developers filed for bankruptcy. The current owner is listed as SBFUND, LLC of Irving.

Gilmore thought this fourth time was the charm, but had recently contacted the city with concerns about the vacancies.

"We do have a lot of foot traffic from the apartments around here," she said. "We were very concerned that with the cold weather, people without homes could possibly go in there."

News 8 contacted the city. We were told they found no code violations.

Gilmore just wonders how long she'll live across from what's now an eyesore.

"I'm not sure it will ever take off again," Gilmore said.

Fire investigators have not determined what caused the fire.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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