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New owner confronts old problems at West Side apartment complex

'We do great work here'
EatondaleApartments.jpg
Posted at 1:59 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 21:36:27-05

CINCINNATI — A New Jersey-based landlord says its West Side apartment complex is the victim of illegal trash dumpers. But some of its tenants say the problems run deeper at Eatondale Apartments in Sedamsville.

The 68-unit apartment complex at 269 Fairbanks Ave. was the scene of a half-day cleanup Friday, as residents and property managers filled three dumpsters with garbage they say was brought to the complex by strangers. Property Manager Marnica Ward said it’s a recurring problem that requires her to call Junk King for extra dumpsters every three days.

“I can’t catch who’s doing it,” Ward said. “I don’t know who’s doing it.”

But one tenant said the trash pile sat there for more than two weeks before she complained about it on Nextdoor, a social media app that lets neighbors alert each other about local events and problems.

“Enough is enough,” said Grecia Moore. “I’m sick and tired of being in unlivable conditions.”

Beyond the trash, Moore said, she has endured leaks, mold, a lack of heat and rodents in her basement apartment.

“Who wants to live like this? I can’t even stay here now because of the mold and mildew that’s in my house,” Moore said.

The Eatondale complex has a troubled history, with six different owners since 2008, all but two of them out-of-town investors. In 2014, the city of Cincinnati declared the property a chronic nuisance. In 2016, Cornerstone Redevelopment bought it with the goal of converting the property to housing for seniors.

Cornerstone’s former owner, Charles Tassell, said he sold the property to Newark-based Radiant Property Management in August 2020 because he thought the company would be good stewards of the complex.

“The company we sold to was well-established, well-reflected with HUD, had the breadth and depth to kind of take it to that next level,” Tassell said. “So, it was a good fit for them and a good fit for us and we kind of stepped away at that point.”

Eatondale is one of 21 properties with 2,547 apartment units owned or managed by Radiant in five states, according to records from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Radiant also owns the King Tower apartment complex in Madisonville, according to Hamilton County property records.

The company has invested “well over $300,000” at Eatondale in the last 16 months, said Jonathan Unger, regional manager for Radiant, who provided receipts documenting more than $180,000 of that spending.

The improvements included “new common areas, plumbing work throughout, new flooring, new exteriors, new access control system, new security cameras and lighting (and) repaving of the entire property,” Unger wrote in an email to the WCPO 9 I-Team. “Additionally, we took a pre-emptive approach and went door-to-door to tenants’ apartments, asking if they had any maintenance needs.”

On Aug. 3, the building scored 95 out of a possible 100 from HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center, which inspects subsidized housing. While the HUD inspection uncovered only minor deficiencies, city inspectors documented more serious problems eight days later.

“No progress with any repair,” wrote city inspector Matthew Flannery on Aug. 11. “The tenant/complainant (told Flannery) water is still getting on the floor of the common hallway when it rains and the mice infestation has gotten worse.”

On Oct. 20, Flannery documented the building’s failure to patch a “squirrel hole” that was first cited in February and was suspected of letting rodents and insects into the building.

Moore said her basement unit leaks when it rains and has no heat. She provided cell phone video showing puddles around her kitchen table and a dead mouse behind her couch.

“I hear so many people complaining,” Moore said. “We don’t have any heat. We don’t have no hot water. And I get so frustrated.”

Ward said there was a brief outage of heat and hot water in the last month, but those problems were quickly resolved. She also said all problems cited by city inspectors have been fixed and are awaiting a follow-up inspection to confirm those repairs.

“We do great work here,” Ward said. “Everything that’s supposed to be done is getting done.”

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