Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Building with a Broken Spirit

 As mentioned at the top of my blog page, I am a full-time working Mom.  I don't talk about work a lot on Life in the Carpool Lane.  Mostly, because I like my blog to be about light and happy things like my husband and kids, my hobbies, etc.  Sometimes I'll share a funny story with the details blurred a little to change places, names, etc.  I am a property manager, and what that translates to is a "Jack of All Trades."  I am rent collector, rules enforcer, services liasion, interpreter, confidante, accountant, and a whole lot of other things in-between.  I've been at this for nine years, starting in elderly housing.  In the past two years, I've transferred to a family property in a small city.  Upon telling a woman what I do for a living after having a conversation about my latest work drama (prostitutes in the hallways, drugs on the premises, and hiring a security detail to help with all of the above and more) she said "Wow, you sound like a fun person to have a cup of coffee with!  I'll bet you have loads of interesting stories."

Uh-huh, I do.  I've got funny ones, ones that make you reflect and I've got the kind that give you the heebie jeebies.    Most of my stories involve people. But today, it was about a building.   

From the description above regarding my current property, I'll bet you can guess it's not exactly what one might call a desirable neighborhood.  You're right....it's not.  It's one of the worst neighborhoods in the city.  Most of the time I'm not creeped out, but then again, I'm there during daylight hours.  My building is a renovated old factory that was turned into apartments two years ago.  The building itself is over 150 years old, and is famous for manufacturing pianos and organs.  However, before it was turned into apartments, it was an abandoned, beat up old building that had been condemned since 2001.   Rehabbing it into apartments, everything brand new, made a big difference in the neighborhood.

Then you have the building next door.  Also very old, five stories, and in horrible shape.  Plus the clientele that came in and out was the sheer definition of "shady."  It was probably once a nice building.  But years of neglect, negligent landlords and devastating drug use turned it into a total slum.  I'd seen the people lounging on the front steps and leering out the windows.  I certainly didn't miss the piles of trash, the grime and filth.  And especially the guy that I saw my first day there, throwing his broken bed and a busted-up wheelchair from the porch railing four flights up.  (What a racket!)  It was certainly not on my list of "things I'll miss while on maternity leave."  Upon my return to work, I was not surprised to learn that the slumlord had been foreclosed on.  What did surprise me is that someone bought it.  And boarded it up, and installed cameras to cut down on crime.  The next surprise was that the new owner had secured a 1.3 million dollar grant to rehab the property, adding an elevator and other amenities..

I got an opportunity to tour the building the other day  I had painted my own picture in my mind's eye of what it might look like.  .  I've always been naturally curious, to know if the interior matched the exterior.  I'm sorry to say that no, they don't match.  In fact, the interior is much, much worse.  "Trashed" doesn't begin to cover it!  Mold in the basements, and around the ceiling light fixtures in the lobby..  Gaping holes in ceilings.  Water damage.  Floors and carpets that hadn't seen the light of day in decades.  Teeny, narrow apartments that hadn't been updated since the Nixon Administration.   Hand-lettered signs posted, warning neighbors not to bring their drugs in there.  In a phrase, sheer hell!  I was told "Oh, you should have seen it when it first closed in February!"  Actually I'm glad I didn't.  I had heard that they had to pay one person to finally leave and all I could think was "You mean people actually lived here willingly???"  It was the kind of thing that makes me grateful for my home and my family.

Yet, it has the potential of being a nice building again. It's slated to be completely gutted, and rehabbed from head to toe.  And I can't wait to see it.  It has so much potential, once the past and it's scars are removed.  I'm certainly looking forward to watching it go from the Disgraced Duckling to a Beautiful Swan! 

1 comment:

Amy, Bryan and Zoey said...

Wow. You DO have amazing work stories...we should totally have coffee together. I can talk about poop. You can talk about...poop people live in? ;-)