In Your Corner: Code Violations at Centlivre Apartments

By Ryan Elijah

July 16, 2010 Updated Jul 16, 2010 at 7:52 AM EDT

Centlivre Apartments were once considered premier rental properties, now the complex has become and eyesore for surrounding neighbors and a growing problem for the city of Fort Wayne.

What was once an upscale 700-unit apartment neighborhood is now a virtually abandoned group of boarded up buildings. Centlivre hit a low in 2006, when filthy living conditions were uncovered by our cameras. All residents receiving public assistance were then moved out. Today, only 1 building is occupied by just 30 residents.

In 1984, 2 of its 7 building were converted to luxury condominiums, becoming Park Place at Centlivre. We met with dozens of those residents this week who are growing more and more frustrated at the declining condition of the property next to them and the crime that comes with it.

Marcia Simmons/Park Place Board President said, "it's a pretty bad eyesore to our little community. I think the vast majority of us agree, they would like it demolished.
Bob Byers, Park Place resident for 23 years said, "there are just too many people that cause havoc and the police are constantly called"

We spoke to the California owner of the complex, Albert Cohan, who said all of the buildings are structurally sound. He also said he's spent nearly 500-thousand dollars cleaning up the property and he sees no grounds for condemnation.

"structurally, they're in top shape and they still can and will be remodeled", said Cohan.

Last year Cohan was denied millions of dollars in city, state and federal money to fix the buildings when it was determined he didn't have a rehabilitation plan for the entire complex. The city's Neighborhood Code Enforcement also inspected the facility the same day we did and opened a case with a letter to the owner on Thursday citing a number of code violations in each building. The list included everything from broken windows to unstable balconies.

"we've got a list of violations in each building, including the building
that is currently occupied. Our whole goal here is compliance, have them occupied and have them viable.", said Cindy Joyner, Neighborhood Code Enforcement Director for the city of Fort Wayne.

Cohan and the city agree the buildings are structurally solid and rehabilitating them or demolishing them would be an expensive process, one that could end up costing Fort Wayne money it doesn't have. City officials say they're committed to making something positive happen at what they consider an ideal location just a few miles north of downtown. The location is near the river and a planned new exercise trail.

"the city is committed to seeing something positive happen and this will allow the owner to go on record with the community to tell us how this is going to happen, with or without public resources", said Heather Presley, deputy director of housing and neighborhood services.

The owner told us he hasn't accepted new residents for over a year and he plans to pursue tax credit options and a local partner for the project. He also cited an ongoing lawsuit with former owners of the property. If the case goes to a repair hearing in 60 days, neighbors at Park Place and the Brookview Neighborhood Association will have a chance to have their voices heard.

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