West-side Orlando apartments land in bankruptcy, again

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Original article by Orlando Sentinel.

City of Orlando officials are requesting immediate access to apartment buildings on the city’s west side to address “dangerous” conditions after the owner of the units filed for bankruptcy.

First One Hundred LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 21, owns 105 units at Tampa Avenue and Orange Center Boulevard. All but a few of the units are vacant and boarded up.

The apartments are just south of the former Washington Shores complex, which was recently acquired by a not-for-profit group called Lift Orlando that has plans for new development there.

The First One Hundred buildings, however, are also a problem for the area, according to the city and to organizers of Lift Orlando.

“It is pretty terrible, and we need things to be stabilized in the area,” said Eddy Moratin, executive director of Lift Orlando. “People are concerned about the safety and conditions there.”

The city has hired an attorney from Gray Robinson, Roy Kobert, to seek the bankruptcy court’s permission to enter the property. The city alleges that the owner has “systemically expended zero effort and zero dollars on deferred maintenance, upkeep or even to perform the most basic functions to secure the apartments to prevent further waste or mitigate existing dangerous conditions,” the city’s motion in court states.

“The … complete disregard for the apartments has resulted in the 105 units becoming … nuisances which adversely impact the health, safety and welfare of its neighbors and residents of the City of Orlando.”

According to the bankruptcy court filings, the city is owed at least $300,000 by First One Hundred.

Zach Shelosmith, attorney representing First One Hundred, said his client is negotiating with the city over the alleged violations and fines.

The area south of Camping World Stadium has been subject to several owners that were plagued by financial trouble.

A previous owner, PDQ Coolidge, acquired hundreds of units there in 2007, announcing plans for a $40 million rehab. But that company filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Eventually Fannie Mae, a quasi-governmental agency, seized many of the apartments in foreclosure.

Eventually the foreclosed units were turned over to the city and then to Lift Orlando, and demolished. Lift Orlando is planning a ground-breaking in the next few months on 200 new mixed income apartment units.

But the First One Hundred units are still in limbo.

“My client believes that once the various claims are resolved or adjudicated in the Bankruptcy Court, the future sale of the property will benefit the creditors and equity security holders, as well as the community as a whole,” Shelosmith said in an email.

First One Hundred is owned by a North Miami Beach company, DYC Group, that lists South Florida businessman Gideon Gratsiani as its agent and contact person.

The First One Hundred apartments are known as Lakeview, Colonial Manor and Bunche Manor. The city has cited First One Hundred with a long list of violations, including crumbling stairwells, exposed wiring, broken windows, plumbing and roof leaks, mold, and vacant units left unsecured.

Mike Rhodes, manager with the city’s code informant division, stated in a court filing that the city “has been forced to expend additional police and fire resources to respond to calls concerning the apartments in addition to actions undertaken by the Code Enforcement Division.”

In the meantime, Lift Orlando is focused on building 200 units on the lots across the street from the First One Hundred properties. Moratin said the next step would then be to seek tax credits to build 120 units for senior housing.

“After that, our next steps will not necessarily be housing or real estate related, and we are turning our attention to education issues in the area,” Moratin said.

PDQ also had South Florida roots. Back when it filed for bankruptcy, Orlando officials expressed anger over their business model.

At the time, former City Commissioner Daisy Lynum said, “The community has suffered because of these owners’ neglect of these properties.”

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