Investment, but then a displacement

A Neighborhood Abandoned

June 26, 2006|By ERIC SIEGEL

As depressed as the blocks around the brewery are, some neighborhood activists are already worrying about a down side to new investment: the possible displacement of longtime residents.

Consider the case of Alma Jones.

Jones, a 76-year-old widow who lives alone, had been renting a rowhouse at 1722 Milton Ave. for the past 20 years, most recently paying $300 a month. But a Columbia company called Throneroom Corp. bought the house for $9,500 in 2004, and last year insisted she leave.

In April of last year, Kehl Todjo, Throneroom's representative, wrote Jones a letter, pointing out that her lease had expired five months before and threatening to begin eviction proceedings in a month.

"Due to the current condition of the property, I need to begin rehabilitation work immediately to prevent further problems," he wrote.

In response, Jones began paying her rent into an escrow account.

At a rent court hearing last July, Todjo said, "We had no interest in renewing the lease. We had no money to fix the property." After the hearing, Todjo said his company underestimated the amount of repairs needed to fix the property. "Our current intention is to get Ms. Jones out of the property so when we get money, we can fix it up or sell it," he said. "We don't have a timetable."

When the court ruled that Jones had to leave the house, 1722 Milton Ave. became another in a long list of unoccupied rowhouses in the brewery area.

Jones, who receives $579 a month in Social Security payments, struggled for months to find a new place to live in the neighborhood.

In early November, she finally found one - a small, one-bedroom apartment on the fourth and top floor of a subsidized seniors residence in nearby Berea.

Her new rent is cheaper: Jones says she pays only a little over $200 a month for rent and utilities.

But she laments that her new apartment is too small for the dining room set she had for 30 years, and she says she misses her old home.

"I'm not used to a little place like this," she said. "I'm used to going up and down steps. I miss being around there. We would sit on the steps, talking to different people on the block."

Jones' former house is still unoccupied. And Throneroom Corp. has purchased another, boarded house across the street. It cost $9,000.

Eric Siegel

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