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Improvements under way at Baldwin's Leland Point

| Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leland Point's overgrown grass is now is being maintained.

Fire alarms and surveillance cameras also have been installed, and lighting has been added to once-dark walkways.

During the last year, residents said they've noticed progress at the Baldwin Borough apartment complex, where living conditions came under scrutiny of law enforcement and where residents have complained about crime, sewage and lack of utilities.

"It's a little bit better. Like the yards, they keep the grass cut," said Pete Watkins, 18, who has lived in the complex for a year and a half. "There's more to be done, though."

Apollo Property Management of Charden, Ohio, was set to purchase the 69-building, 1,079-unit complex this week for about $9 million, as part of a $100 million deal to buy numerous properties in several states, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala said. Leland Point has been valued at about $20 million.

Apollo Property Management officials did not return calls seeking comment.

To make way for the sale, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward approved an order Monday ending a receivership and dismissing litigation in a mortgage foreclosure case. Creditor PMCF Holdings and former owner Leland Point Holdings LLC agreed to the terms, the order stated.

Borough officials said with a new owner comes hope for improved living conditions for the complex's nearly 2,000 residents, who have complained of crime and blight.

"We want to see a new turnover, a new leaf," borough Manager John Barrett said.

Hub of activity

Changes at the complex have been ongoing since May 2010, after Zappala's office intervened in an effort to improve basic living conditions, and after criminal charges were filed against the owners, all based in Ohio. Those charges were settled in court.

Resident complaints last year included lack of natural gas and water in winter, raw sewage in the basements and a lack of lighting and fire safety equipment. Nearly 65 percent of calls to the Baldwin Borough Police Department originated at the complex, officials said.

"The people who were living there were treated very badly," Zappala said.

Improvements, paid partly with rents and $587,000 put in escrow by PMCF Holdings, included fire systems and smoke alarms, security cameras at traffic intersections, additional lighting and extra police patrols, Zappala said.

The new ownership is committed to more improvements, officials said. They have agreed to put $3 million in escrow for them.

"I understand they're going to make this a little bit more upscale. They're going to charge a little bit more in rent. They're looking for a different kind of tenant," Zappala said.

With the sale, Baldwin Borough is set to receive at least a portion of about $1.1 million liens filed against Leland Point, officials said. The figure is still under negotiation.

Officials said they the pending change in ownership leaves them hopeful.

"I'm optimistic from the standpoint that these owners have said they're looking at improving the grounds and being good neighbors," Baldwin council President Michael Stelmasczyk said.

"This council wants action and we want action quickly. We're going to make sure the improvements continue."

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