Housing Complex

Marbury Plaza Saga Ends With Release of Rents–Maybe

There are more towers behind that.

A year ago, we checked in with Marbury Plaza, the gigantic set of residential towers on Good Hope Road SE that were supposed to improve dramatically after a years-long rent strike over poor housing conditions, which led to a new management company under a settlement brokered by the District's attorney general. Things were getting better, but residents remained especially concerned about security, after a few shootings and armed robberies on the property.

Last week, the attorney general signed off on all the improvements, certifying that Urban Investment Partners had satisfied the terms of the settlement—which meant they could access the more than $400,000 that the tenants had paid into an escrow account until the fixes had been made. And UIP couldn't be happier about it.

"We did a tremendous amount of work there, and we have a largely very, very satisfied and very happy resident base," says firm principal Steve Schwat. "The residents there are now virtually all paying their rent every month, on time every month, and the property is a massive turnaround. It is really something to be proud of."

April Goggans, the tenants association leader * who campaigned relentlessly to get the settlement in the first place and to hold UIP to its promise, strongly disagrees. In late January, a pro bono legal team from Bread for the City had sent the attorney general a letter detailing the Association's objections to unlocking the escrow account, including inadequate lighting, uneven access for the disabled, and continuing pest infestations. Goggans herself also complains of lax security, slow response times, poor communication, and failure to collect fines for code violations (the most recent inspection, according to the city's online permitting system, turned up 22 of them).

"This has been an exhausting exercise in endless gaslighting," Goggans says. "The current AG was completely silent and purposefully during disengaged from the entire process. The UIP Executives and the property owners can say and do anything, because no one follows anything from start to finish with them. They know the systems and all of its loopholes."

The problem is, the settlement didn't require the building to be perfect—just that UIP expend a certain amount of money for certain improvements.

"I believe they probably complied with the precise terms of the settlement agreement. The single most important factor in it was 'did they invest $5 million to make improvements at Marbury Plaza,' and I believe the answer is yes," says Vytas Vergeer, head of the legal clinic at Bread for the City. Still, he said, "I think the landlord and UIP still have some work to do to really make that a complex worth being proud of."

In an ironic twist to the story, Goggans actually no longer lives at Marbury—she was evicted at the end of January for non-payment of rent. "This allowed them to exact their personal kind of revenge and retaliation and, and of course was an attempt to send a message to tenants," she wrote, in an e-mail to Association members. "Their message is that they can and will continue to try to divide and further marginalize the tenants so that the Association will die and tenants will act and feel defeated."

To an outsider, it's clear that windows have been replaced, but the once luxurious pool is closed off and has plants growing in it [UPDATE, Tuesday, 8:35 a.m.Schwat says the pool was open last summer and will open again this summer]. The tenants who remain are of many minds on the building's current condition—while some newcomers are happy with their newly renovated units, others say that conditions haven't gotten much better since UIP took over.

"Everything is bad. They just put a facelift on certain things," says Michael Thomas, who's lived there since 2007, complaining of security in particular. "Everything is still just poor."

Here's the thing about Marbury, though: At least for now, it's still affordable. One woman who declined to be named moved in nine months ago, and says it took management nearly that long to get leaks fixed and walls painted. But she's paying $815 per month for a studio, which is pretty unbeatable, especially for a high-rise apartment. "If it weren't for the view that I have, I would move," she says.

The building is 95 percent leased, too. Now, free of legal encumbrances and more up to code than they used to be, the buildings might fetch a decent price. According to a memorandum filed in property records, UIP would receive a "property management incentive fee" in the event that the buildings were sold, which would be a nice reward for their trouble. Anybody in the market for a 672-unit apartment complex?

Photo by Lydia DePillis

* CLARIFICATION, April 15: According to the Marbury Plaza tenants association bylaws, Goggans technically could no longer be president after she was evicted, but she has been allowed to serve out the remainder of her term in absentia.

Comments

  1. #1

    How can this be. There are so many violations yet to be addressed. You have rude and incompetent employees. You have a former desk clerk who is now a maintenance man. The head of maintenance is rude, arrogant, obnoxious and some other adjectives I will not put in writing.

  2. H Street Landlord
    #2

    That one woman has an axe to grind. Why didn't she pay her rent?

  3. #3

    The Googans woman should be ashamed. Who spearheads the effort to get the settlement, is head of the tenant association, then is evicted for not paying rent? What sort of shigiddy is that!

    That means if she was evicted in January, she likely hadn't paid her rent since at least November.

    What a douche!

  4. #4

    SEis4ME: I can guarantee you Ms. Googans hadn't paid rent FAR longer than a couple months. Getting a residential tenant evicted for non-payment of rent in good ole rent control DC is a pain in the ass, especially in this situation where she was able to argue that the building management hadn't addressed numerous complaints by her.
    Eventually, the courts will back the landlord when a tenant isn't paying rent. But once a tenant complains and knows the system, they can delay eviction for a LONG time.

  5. #5

    This reminds me of what happened to The NY Post in December 1991, the workers took it over. Several DC apartment property residents are too divided-complacent to stand up for themselves.

    Martin's View Apartments is known by DCHA as a "homeless shelter" and that it is, as owned and run by a supposed well to do "notable of Aviation History and US Marine Corps. Nalls." IF he's important, what's the importance of owning a slum- managed apartment building. Shut this one down also.

  6. #6

    Ms. Goggan's eviction does not negate the fact that things are not all rosey at Marbury Plaza. As a resident I can attest to the probelms the tenants are still facing. Unfortunately, the AG was very eager to release a statement announcing the end of the settlement agreement, however he failed to become enaged during the process. Despite a request from a councilmember he failed to assign Marbury Plaza to one of his staff. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs failed to refer the non-abatement of work to the Office of Civil Infractons so that management and the owners were probably fined. How many building-wide inspections and a pro-active inspection does it take to get work done? Many of the violations are still outstanding. The residents of Marbury Plaza must decide whether they want to continue to pay rent for poor servcie or file housing conditions complaints. If you do not stand up for yourself then you cannot complain! Management does not care if there are violations in a unit so long as the tenant is not requesting an inspection of filing a housing conditions complaint. Nor does management care that the flavor of MP has changed tremenduosly due to who they are renting to. Break-ins have increased. Half the time you have to run from floor to floor to try and find working washers and drivers. You can add three or four people to each lease to account for the rodents. There are still leaks in the common areas. People with disabilities who live in the back buildign still do not have adeqaute access. There are tenants who still have carpet that needs to be replaced because of health and safety issues. The carpet is old and people end up tripping. There are tenants with cabinets that need to be replaced. Management wants to cover over damage caused by leaks instead of fixing the leak first. MP tenants stand up for what is right!!!

  7. #7

    @Drpoli, Marbury isn't a Class A or B property nor are its residents class A or B residents. What that means is that there are things RESIDENTS must do to maintain the property that sometimes will fall outside of what management should be doing. If nonworking washers/dryers, old carpet and cabinets are examples of the "housing violations" then management must not be doing that horribly considering where Marbury was not even two years ago.

  8. #8

    SEis4ME, I have seen the interior of some of the units and housing code violations still exists. So everything is not so peachy. There have been improvements but under the housing codes the housing provider must provide safe, clean and habitable housing. The major problem is that tenants want to tell me how manageemnt has not responded to their repair requests but they will not follow through with filing a housing conditions complaint. If management had to appear before Judge Wright every Monday to explain why repairs have not been made then I think there will be an attitude change on the part of management. So my position is this: If you will not file a housing conditions complaint to address the issue of falling cabinets, peeling paint, faulty appliances, violations in the common areas, infestations, water leaks, etc. then do not tell me your problems. If you are not willing to spend the funds to have mold testing then you are the one getting sick. You have to be willing to hold these guys accountable.

  9. #9

    Some conditions have improved at Marbury Plaza; however, security is somewhat laxed and, while I have been broken into twice, I continue to hear about other breakins to apartments. There seems to be a tendancy to blame the tenant. (???). For the size of the building, I believe cameras should be installed on all floors exit/entrances. Another complaint is the incidence of mice in spite of me keeping my apartment clean/tidy and roach infestation which I've found a way to control fairly well on my own. Not sure what I need to do to get some new cabinets! The staff is usally very efficient. I give MP a "6 out of 10" rating.

  10. Marburyplazatenants
    #10

    Anyone still living at Marbury Plaza please email me marburyplazatenants@yahoo.com. Please give us your name, apartment number and email address...we will contact you shortly.

  11. #11

    I am currently a tenant of Marbury Plaza and I wished I had seen these comments before I had moved in. I was moved into a unit that has over 13 problems. And some of them have not been resolved as of this date. I moved in earlier this year and I truly regret it everyday. It amazed me how all of the statements made on one apartment complex are so true. The staff their are undescribable!! And I mean that in a negative way! I've live in the worse and I've live in the best. And never in my life have I experienced with them I've experienced before. The staff barely answer the telephones, when putting in maintenance request the Concierges always have an attitude. Or give you a an unwanted look. When putting in maitenance request for a problem in your unit, I would have to submit a request at least four to five times before they even come an look at the problem. And then when they do address the problem. The maintenance person looks and never return. Or they halfway do the job and leave. I have several leaks in my apartment. My walls and ceiling are filled with mold and mildew. And just like someone else said, the washing machines are always broke and then you have to go to another floor. I do notice the cleaning staff (spanish) try so hard to keep the building clean. I will give kudos to them!! The Leasing Staff are a joke! There about ripping you off and getting there commission. They will put you in a apartment with problems and promise to have them fixed the same day you move in. Which never happens. I could go on and on about this place and I am very disappointed. I will say this people have inquired about moving there. I tell them "HELL NO"!! AND THEY ARE ABOUT TO SELL THE PROPERTY AGAIN!! SO MUCH FOR MARBURY PLAZA!!

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