While we wait to learn the truth from the City of Greensboro about what actually took place at Greensboro's Heritage House Condominiums and the City of Greensboro continues to refuse to open any investigation I'd like to point out a bit of the history of Heritage House and how what happened there is in fact a fast forwarded version of every bad neighborhood in America.
Originally the Royal Villa, a luxury hotel that opened in 1974 and closed a few years later the property changed hands a couple of times including ownership by the Greensboro Housing Authority. Eventually it ended up being repossessed by a bank who then sold most of the property to a developer known as Heritage House 310 LLC. That was in 2005. Just 9 years later in what might be record time Heritage House went from newly developed neighborhood to 177 individual deeded properties all condemned by the City of Greensboro.
Point: These properties were not condemned because they were unsafe to live in. City inspectors checked all 177 units and cited zero structural flaws. The City deemed them unfit, not unsafe.
The actual condemnation took place after the City of Greensboro foreclosed on what is said to be an overdue water bill the City refuses to make public. The City will tell you they have not yet foreclosed but property owners are not being allowed on their properties. That, my friends is forclosure in deed if not on paper.
If you look at Heritage House on a map it is in itself a neighborhood all by itself. The condominium project located on the south side of Greensboro in District 1 is 100% surrounded with commercial properties, shopping centers, a Fed Ex hub, fast food restaurants, my credit union, Greensboro Municipal and industrial properties. It's address, 310 W Meadowview fronts on a major thoroughfare which quickly intersects to two other major thoroughfares, Randalman Road and South Elm-Eugene Street. Except for the steady rush of traffic going somewhere else, Heritage House is as isolated a neighborhood as any in our city.
And that, my friends, may have been a contributing factor.
Another contributing factor was the failure of the City to see Heritage House for what it was-- a neighborhood-- and to treat it as such with regular patrols. A six story bulding with 400 residents can't be patrolled by driving down Meadowview Street but despite the fact that a Greensboro Police Department sub station stands proudly on South Elm-Eugene Street less that 1/4 mile away from Heritage House foot patrols of Heritage House were not on GPD's menu.
At the same time we assign lots of cops to foot patrol a much larger area in Downtown Greensboro.
City of Greensboro building inspectors never required Heritage House 310 LLC to provide any security measures to residents. Funny thing was, that was before the State of North Carolina forced Greensboro to adopt the weaker state building codes in 2012. Prior to 2012 if a Greensboro building inspector saw a need for something that wasn't in the code he forced the developer to add it. That, my friends, is why the developer lobby got the State to force Greensboro and other cities "in line."
Conditions deteriorated rapidly at Heritage House. People were literally scared to live there. In 2005 units were selling for $30,000 to $60,000 depending on size, style and desirability. As early as 2007 letters describing the crimes were being posted online. By 2013 people were literally giving them to anyone who wanted a home and could pay the taxes. One resident I've spoken with was given 3 units for free.
The City of Greensboro wants to point fingers at landlords. Yes, some were slumlords and shared the blame but slumlords only rush in when neighborhoods start to fail-- why was Heritage House failing so quickly?
The City of Greensboro wants to point fingers at the homeowners who fell behind on paying their dues to the Heritage House Homeowners Association LLC but with any loosing investment there comes a point when the investor has to stop the bleeding and stop throwing good money after bad. I cannot blame people for trying to cut their losses when they could see no other way out.
The City of Greensboro said Heritage House is unlivable because the City turned off the water. Think about that.
The City of Greensboro released crime stats that indicated 2800 calls to 911 and blamed it all on the residents there but the City wasn't patrolling the property. Think about that.
Owners and renters came and went at Heritage House over the course of 9 years but the one thing that remained constant, the one thing that could have made a difference was the City of Greensboro.
And when the City of Greensboro succeeded in designing and building the fastest failing neighborhood in the history of Greensboro, America and quite possibly the world, they rewarded the homeowners who paid their taxes and paid their bills until the blood could flow no more, by taking away 177 individually deeded properties and leaving them with nothing. And some I've talked with actually lived at Heritage House.
Good job, Greensboro, if you've accomplished nothing else I'm almost certain you hold a world's record.