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Heat, water problems plague residents in new Highland Park apartment building

Jeremy Lazarus | 1/27/2017, 7:31 a.m.
Ernest L. Fox has stopped showering since moving into the new Highland Park Senior Apartments, a former school building being ...

Ernest L. Fox has stopped showering since moving into the new Highland Park Senior Apartments, a former school building being converted into 77 residential apartments at East Brookland Park Boulevard and Second Avenue.

“I can’t get any hot water,” said the retired welder, one of 24 residents who have moved into the incomplete building from the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Fay Towers, which is scheduled to close.

“I have to boil water to shave and wash myself,” said the 68-year-old Richmond native. “It’s really frustrating.”

Equally as frustrating is the heating situation at the building, residents said. During the cold snap in early January, Mr. Fox said he had to bundle up to stay warm inside his second-floor apartment because the heat did not work. He said his apartment wasn’t warm until last Friday when the maintenance staff raised the thermostat’s setting to 78 degrees and opened a heat vent in his bedroom.

Residents have limited control of their thermostats and can adjust them only between 68 and 72 degrees, according to Luann Tia Blount, a spokesman for the nonprofit developer, Community Preservation and Development Corp. of Silver Spring, Md.

Mr. Fox is not alone among new residents complaining about the complex that was supposed to be a major improvement over the aging Fay Towers and for the Highland Park area.

Mr. Fox and others related their latest problems with the building to the Free Press last Saturday after Ms. Blount insisted earlier last week that the hot water complaints had been handled.

CPDC is pouring $11.4 million into the project as part of carrying out its contract with the RRHA to replace the 200 units in Fay Towers.

But the new units have not satisfied Hazel Bachoo, 63, a production specialist with Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods. She said Saturday her hot water still isn’t working properly. “The water turns lukewarm when you’re taking a shower,” she said.

She also said her apartment isn’t warm enough on cold nights. While the thermostat in her apartment has been set at 74, the apartment felt drafty and cooler than the temperature setting.

Another tenant, Charlie Emanuel, a retired cook, said he wishes he could take a bath like he used to at Fay Towers, but he, too, has found that the hot water runs out before he can fill the tub.

And he worries about security after discovering that the security lock on the front door easily can be opened.

“I’ve reported it, but no one wants to listen. They just brush me off,” he said after showing a reporter how easily the door can be opened.

Ernest L. Fox uses his fingers to test the water temperature in his new apartment. He says water never gets hot enough to use for shaving or showering.

Ernest L. Fox uses his fingers to test the water temperature in his new apartment. He says water never gets hot enough to use for shaving or showering.

Visitors are supposed to call a tenant or the office and be buzzed into the apartment building after identifying themselves. However, the electronically controlled door opens by pressing two buttons without a visitor having to call anyone.

The complex was supposed to be finished last fall, but work is still being done on more than half the building. The city provided CPDC with a temporary occupancy permit for the completed portion while work continues in other parts of the building.