Nearly eight months after Terry Ragan sold his seven apartment complexes to a Denver-area real estate company, life is gradually improving for tenants at the decrepit, bug-infested apartments primarily in southeast Colorado Springs.
New stoves, air conditioners and dishwashers are replacing appliances that stopped working long ago. Requests to fix them were ignored while Ragan was the landlord. Laundry machines that didn’t work or left oil stains on tenants’ clothes have been replaced. Security cameras are being installed, and security guards now patrol parking lots previously ceded to drug dealers and other criminals.
The legions of cockroaches, a ubiquitous part of life at Ragan apartments, are being eradicated.
Under the new owners, Slipstream Properties, tenants have to meet and abide by stricter leasing requirements. The New Horizons complex has been rebuilt from the studs out and rechristened North 49 in the first phase of $35 million in planned renovations and upgrades.
Those renovations are expected to kick into high gear in 2019, with at least two more complexes slated for overhauls. By mid-2021, every apartment complex formerly owned by Ragan will have undergone the same makeover, including landscaping upgrades, the new owners say.
For all the problems Ragan caused that have been documented by police and code inspectors over the years — giving gang members free rein, fire and other violations that endangered tenants’ health and safety — city officials acknowledge that the 1,200 apartments he formerly owned accounted for a large percentage of the affordable housing in Colorado Springs.
Slipstream’s plans will admittedly exacerbate that problem by gentrifying portions of the city’s southeast. Repairing and rebuilding the deteriorating complex will attract middle-class or affluent people who displace the poorer, longtime residents who no longer can afford to live there.
Jessica Shah, left, holds her middle child Nikhil Anderson- Shah, 4, with her husband Abe Shah, dog Zeus and oldest child James Anderson, 12, in their home at Pine Creek Village apartments in Colorado Springs, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. The family have moved into the apartments in October 2018 after the ownership changed. Beforehand, the family lived out of their car. "We chose homelessness over living in the slums," Jessica Shah said about her family’s decision to not rent from Terry Ragan. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette) Kelsey Brunner
Everyone living in the Pine Creek Village, Shannon Glen, South Pointe, Cedar Creek Club, El Vecino and Timbers apartments will be told to leave at some point over the next few years. Some tenants are being offered a chance to move into an old apartment outfitted with new appliances, or a newly-renovated unit costing hundreds of dollars more a month.
Maurissa Torres stairs at the hole in the ceiling over her bathtub in her apartments at Pine Creek Village apartments in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Nearly 10 people live in this apartment, including her child. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)
Ask almost any current or former tenant, and the horror stories of neglect and mismanagement at the Ragan properties repeat themselves over and over.
Walls were pocked with holes. Hallways and basements were dark because lights were out or broken. Windows were shattered. Ceilings in many second-floor apartments leaked, and mold flourished in many units.
Roy Griego rips carpet out of a closed building at the Pine Creek Village apartments in Colorado Springs, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)
Everything comes at a cost; that’s just how gentrification works, whether in Denver or southeast Colorado Springs.
Dennis Easley stands outside of his new apartment building at the Shannon Glen apartments in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)
In the meantime, Ragan’s old apartments continue to be islands of affordable housing in a sea of rising rents.
Ovens sit next to a closed pool at the Shannon Glen apartments in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)
Stone, 58, knows the clock is ticking. So do his neighbors.