Alden Park Tenant Group Launches Rent Strike
The historic Alden Park apartment complex on the border of East Falls and Germantown may be in the midst of a total makeover, but tenants still living in about 80 apartments there aren’t happy with how things are going. Complaining about a management they say is unresponsive to concerns they have raised repeatedly, they have formed a tenants’ union and are withholding their rent as of this month.
In a letter sent to Philadelphia magazine, Alden Park Tenants Union vice president Kristen Aguirre stated that the tenants’ concerns fall into three broad categories: safety and security issues, code violations, and maintenance issues.
Many of the safety and security concerns relate to the ongoing construction taking place. “Random people are free to roam about the property, including the multitude of construction crews,” the letter claims. “Some crews are not licensed and none of [them] have visible IDs. There have even been sightings of squatters in all of the buildings.
“There have been multiple break-ins, a knifing incident, a shooting incident and vandalism. Entrance gates go unlocked as well. All of these issues in a reportedly gated community.”
A search of the online Licenses and Inspections violations database by Philadelphia magazine shows 17 unresolved code violations attached to three addresses associated with the Alden Park complex: 2967 West School House Lane, 2979 West School House Lane, and 5714 Wissahickon Avenue. Two of the violations relate to property maintenance, while the remaining 15 concern fire code violations. Six of the fire code violations concern renewal of permits and annual inspections for the fire alarm systems in each of the three buildings that make up the complex.
These violations, Aguirre wrote, are of greatest concern to the residents, “especially since we’ve had a fire and no alarm went off to warn residents. … The tenants’ level of frustration and anxiety concerning their safety and security living here at Alden Park is only exacerbated by the complete lack of communication (i.e., management not answering the phone or emails), follow-up and total disregard for our protests for better security.”
Union co-president Alex Rudolph mentioned other annoyances in a phone conversation. One of the larger ones: utility shutoffs with no advance warning. His own gas had been shut off with no prior notice, he said, and “we realized others were having the same issues. PGW said they’d been sending us notices, but it’s been a mess of communication errors.
“Everyone’s been raising these issues separately since the new management company took over. We get an ‘Okay, thank you,’ then nothing happens.”
This led the frustrated tenants to turn to the Tenant Union Representative Network (TURN) for advice on how to organize and press their case.
“We would appreciate if Alden Park took care of the existing tenants first and met their needs before offering new leases to clients and trying to add other amenities,” Aguirre wrote. “Alden Park was bought by foreclosure by L3C Partners, and they inherited a lot of the issues of the complex, however, they were not addressed and they are still actively renting to clients.”
L3C provided Philadelphia magazine with this written response to the tenants’ statements:
We purchased Alden Park a little over a year ago and have embarked upon a major $60+ million renovation project to greatly improve the individual apartments and community as a whole in accordance with city guidelines. At this time, we have completely renovated almost 250 apartments and have already addressed multi-million dollar repairs to all the roofs and masonry/facade. We are also starting next month with an extensive window project, replacing all 7,000+ windows in every residential unit with Graham quality, energy efficient windows (that have a .46 u-value for energy conservation), while still matching the property’s historic integrity. The window project itself costs $12,600,000 and is scheduled for substantial completion by February 2018.
Upgrades to Alden Park’s amenity spaces are also underway. A new dog park has been completed, as well as extensive renovations to upgrade the fitness center and indoor pool. We are scheduled to finish the brand new Cambridge Clubhouse by the 2016 holiday season, and the Kenilworth patio, pergola, and grill area will be completed within the next several weeks.
Alden Park has obtained all of the required licenses and permits to perform the renovations and operate the property.
Overall, we believe these renovations will vastly improve the living experience for all residents. We’re doing everything we can to make this a wonderful property, and to make our residents feel comfortable in their homes and in our community.
Antoinette Marie Johnson, founder and CEO of At Media, the firm that is handling the complex’s marketing campaign, had additional comments in response to the tenants’ union’s specific complaints about safety and security breaches.
“Overall, we are addressing all of their concerns as best as we can, but some of the allegations in the tenants’ letter are false,” she said. “Alden Park is a secure, gated community monitored by numerous security cameras and a nightly roving security guard. All entrance gates and buildings require electronic entry.
“Construction crews have been contracted to perform Alden Park’s renovations and are identified through their uniforms that have company names and logos.
“Alden Park responded to two reports of a break-in, but the break-ins in question refused investigation or to file insurance claims. No squatters, knifing, or shooting incidents have occurred. A one-time report for each of the alleged knifing and shooting incidents was filed with Alden Park staff and local police but no evidence of any incident taking place was discovered. The shooting in particular did not happen on our campus but was misreported in the press.”
As for the management’s reponsiveness, she said, “They have a wide open door for addressing individual tenants’ complaints, and anything they come to management to, they respond to. They answer calls and emails around the clock, and the management office is staffed at least 10 hours every workday.”
Johnson noted that the three buildings in the complex had many security and structural integrity issues when L3C acquired them in 2015. “They’ve been working with L&I to address these issues as part of the ongoing renovation. They have renovated over 250 units in a short period of time.” There are a total of 778 units in Alden Park’s three buildings. “Their security, structural, parking and landscaping issues are being addressed, but it takes time.
“There are also some 600 residents living there now. This is a very small minority of them.”