An Atlantic City apartment building once heralded as a pillar of neighborhood revitalization has structural issues significant enough that residents are being asked to leave while the integrity of the building is evaluated.
The state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which recently purchased the site, is telling residents it will provide relocation assistance or pay for temporary housing while the testing is completed and repairs are made.
There was no indication how long that might take, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said.
The five-story building at 1 N. Boston Ave. in the city's Chelsea neighborhood was last remodeled in 1998 with the help of a $2.8 million loan from the CRDA.
But when Northfield-based developer New Vistas Corp. and management partner James Pindar failed to repay the loan, the authority began foreclosure proceedings and recently acquired the property through a sheriff's sale. That prompted the CRDA to follow up with an engineer's report completed in May by Czar Engineering LLC of Egg Harbor Township.
Currently assessed at just under half that cost, or $1.36 million, engineers estimate the building was constructed around 1930.
"Although not readily apparent, the age and location of this structure dictates varying levels of concealed water damage, rotten wood framing and probable steel corrosion. However, a proper and complete identification of these conditions was infeasible short of physically dissecting the building," the report reads.
It goes on to detail sloping floors with humps and valleys, severe plaster cracks and racked door openings. In some places, floor joists were hanging off other joists where substantial beams or bearing walls should have been, the report states.
Butler said residents' safety is the authority's top priority, and those who choose to leave can receive moving expenses and other relocation expenses. Still, residents can opt to remain in the building as this is no imminent danger, though the testing will be disruptive, she said.
Atlantic City Code Enforcement Director Rick Russo said at times, the city's codes department will request an engineer's report when the structural integrity of a building is in question during a city inspection, but that didn't happen in this case.
The city completes inspections before granting certificates of occupancy for individual apartments. A city inspection of the entire building was completed before granting a sales permit in April, and no problems were found. A state Department of Community Affairs inspection - required every five years for units with multiple dwellings - was also completed within the past year, Russo said.
A receptionist for New Vistas directed all questions about the property to Lynn Callahan, the company's senior vice president, who was unavailable Wednesday.
Residents received letters from the CRDA this week and have been asked to attend upcoming informational meetings. On Wednesday, a number of residents at the building said they were confused by what was happening and were concerned about having to leave. All declined to give their names.
The building includes three commercial properties on the first floor fronting Atlantic Avenue: the law offices of Kenneth Wallach and John Kickbush, Mayra's Beauty Salon and Rosario's Mini-Market. None of the businesses will be affected by the testing, Butler said.
This is not the first time the building has faced difficulties. New Vistas, which is headed by former CRDA Executive Director Michael Cohan, purchased the foreclosed building in the early 1990s for $750,000 from Minotola National Bank. The run-down building had been a hangout for drug dealers, and officials hoped the remodeled site would spur further redevelopment.
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