CLEVELAND — Hundreds of residents who live near Cleveland's Shaker Square are urging the city to get tougher on owners of distressed, or vacant apartment buildings in their neighborhood.
Meg Weingart is a member of the Morelands Group residents association and she told News 5 she's been living near a vacant, boarded-up apartment building on South Moreland Boulevard for several years and is worried about neighborhood safety.
“Well it’s not right for people to live with this building, empty and boarded up," Weingart said. “No we don't want the building torn down, but no, the fence here is not enough, we’ve got to get it up to par so that people can live here, it’s part of the neighborhood.”
Former Cleveland City Council President Jay Westbrook, who is also with the Morelands Group, told News 5 the current owner of the apartment building has had plenty of time to make needed improvements and get it occupied once again. Westbrook is calling on Cleveland Housing Court and the city building and housing department to take action.
“We’ve called on them to prosecute the owner of this property, he has sat on this condemned for seven years,” Westbrook said. “Sadly there are other properties headed in this direction. Shaker Square is only as strong as the surrounding neighborhoods, and things like this are warning signs that we have to get busy."
Westbrook said too many of the distressed apartment buildings are owned by people and companies that are located out of state.
“Our group has seen tenants in their properties that have no heat, no water, lights come on and off, on and off, and you say where’s the manager, where’s the owner," Westbrook said. “But they can’t call anybody, we get the city out here, they can’t find anybody. The owners, they are in Boca Raton Florida, and I don’t think they are standing in the snow like we are. I don't think they even own a snow shovel."
News 5 talked extensively with the owner of the South Moreland Boulevard apartment building. We are not naming him at this time because he said he's been trying to make improvements at the complex and pledged to make great progress in 2022. News 5 also contacted Cleveland Housing Court hoping to get a status report on the distressed apartment buildings brought to our attention by the Morelands Group.
Meanwhile, group member Rob Render told News 5 residents have collected more than 750 signatures from people who live near Shaker Square who are demanding change.
Render told News 5 he's hoping the city will move forward in requiring point-of-sale inspections so that when a property is sold and changes hands, it must meet certain building requirements before the sale can go through.
“The apartment owner is disgraceful, unacceptable, needs to be hauled into court," Render said. “With point-of-sale inspections, you cannot turn that property over unless you do the mechanicals, which would be roof, heating, electricity, things of that nature, just the minimum.”
“These buildings are a safety hazard. the problem is what if a kid goes in there, it’s not boarded up, or somebody torches it. And you’re not talking just that building if it’s torched, the building adjacent to it will go up in flames as well, that’s how serious this is. This is life and death."