I was in the same room as many other people during meetings concerning the rezoning of the Sweetbay (formerly Thrippence) Apartments. What I heard during these meetings was Mr. Russell Smith, of Lexington Assets Management, being grilled by demands from the citizens with conditions being placed on his company prior to rezoning. We, me being one of them, asked Lexington Asset Management to complete the demolition of Building 5, to initiate a “crime free” addendum to his lease, on site security and security cameras, fencing around the perimeter, a bus stop shelter and several other things before considering the rezoning. Mr. Smith answered all questions posed to him in a calm and reasoned manner and it appeared to me, bent over backwards to try to implement the conditions asked of him by said citizens. A vote was taken with a show of hands by all attendees to proceed with the presentation to the East Ridge City Council.
What I witnessed Thursday (8/23/18) at the East Ridge City Council meeting was, in my opinion, an ambush by citizens that appear to be happy with nothing less than the demolition of the entire property. The verbal agreement discussed at the previous meeting was trashed and torpedoed with complaints about crime on and around said property. I do have a problem with decorum in City Council meetings but that topic would lend itself to a larger discussion.
The apartments on Fountain Avenue were originally built and occupied in 1983. They have changed hands several times and some of the buildings had become dilapidated. Lexington Asset Management bought the property in 2013 and, using Mr. Smith’s words, thought they had hit a “Home Run.” It turns out they were born on 3rd base. Many construction issues, code problems and contractor problems led to the project stalling out.
After the infusion of some new money they are asking the City of East Ridge to let them improve on what is already there. They demolished Bldg. 5 in two weeks, instead of the original four to five they had anticipated. I am of the opinion the City should allow the existing building to be renovated and be brought up to current code and if most of the conditions discussed are met, have a conversation as to what to do with the land where Building 5 was. It will only add to the tax rolls. After all, they could just walk, and another developer convert the property to Section 8.
_ Mickey Spence