Once-condemned Irving apartment complex now a success story


by By DEBORAH FLECK / The Dallas Morning News


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 2:00 PM

Chivas Square almost came tumbling down.

Andrew Demalade, maintenance supervisor of the Village at the Crossroads apartment complex in Irving, walks into an area where several once-condemned buildings are still being renovated.

But the owners of the 200-unit apartment complex did what hasn't been done to any other condemned multifamily structure in Irving. They reopened it.

Life has returned to what's now called Village at the Crossroads.

"This is the first apartment complex that was totally vacated and then rehabbed to open," said Guy Henry, Irving's code-enforcement director. "The majority has been demolished by the owners."

The improvements have cost more than $3 million so far, according to management.

"Early on, he [the owner] made the decision to keep the complex open," said Keith Ward, an attorney who represents owner Jack Kofdarali of California.

Kofdarali did not respond to requests for comment.

Citywide, officials have shut down about 20 multifamily properties totaling more than 730 units as part of Irving's crackdown on substandard apartments. Some landlords have filed lawsuits against the city. But others are stepping up to improve their complexes.

"We do have numerous occupied apartment complexes that are in various stages of rehab throughout the city," Henry said.

The six-building complex that makes up the Village at the Crossroads sits in a prime location, just south of Airport Freeway on Carl Road and not far from expected redevelopment at Texas Stadium.

"I chose the new name because of the crossroads project that will be at the stadium site," said manager Robbie Burns of Legend Asset Management Corp. The Arlington-based company handles the property and is doing the renovations.

Kofdarali purchased the complex in the early 1990s. At the time, the buildings were about 20 years old. Over the years, age took its toll. Code violations started piling up.

From April 2006 to May 2007, city code-enforcement officials notified management several times of substandard conditions. There were electrical, mechanical and plumbing violations.

"It smelled like a sewer," former tenant Charlene Willard said. "I was concerned for my grandchildren's safety because the toxic fumes were so strong."

On May 17, 2007, the city's Building and Standards Commission found the property "to be unfit for human habitation and a hazard to the public's health, safety and welfare."

The city set deadlines and worked with the owner. But still, requirements weren't met.

In July, the city revoked the certificate of occupancy. Tenants were gone by Sept. 11.

New plans submitted about a month later were approved. Repair work started that fall.

"We are trying to do more than what is required from the city to make it nicer," Ward said.

But he admitted it has been challenging and costlier than expected.

"Installing sprinklers has required cutting into Sheetrock," Ward said. "As in any construction, you find other problems always come up."

Four buildings have opened so far. The remaining two should be ready by May.

"Everything is new," manager Terry Van Pelt said. "We've installed new floors, appliances and sprinklers."

Plus, she said they plan to add an exercise room, business center and dog park. A swimming pool and playground are already open.

Van Pelt said about 60 of 120 renovated units are occupied.

"Under the new requirements, we've had to turn away a lot of people," she said. "We would have been full otherwise."

Those new requirements for multifamily properties were approved by the City Council last October.

They call for tenants to have an acceptable form of identification, such as a driver's license. New tenants must also submit to a criminal background check.

Rents range from $545 to $785.

Irving Cares executive director Teddie Story is pleased with the complex's changes.

"One of the problems is that when we eliminate substandard housing, I'm not sure what will replace it," said Story, whose agency helps displaced tenants find housing. "It is encouraging to see the complex return and serve its client base by still offering affordable housing."