The Shirley apartment in Alexander, which accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all low-rent housing in the city and currently house more than 1,200 families will gradually be closed over the four months, city officials announced yesterday.
The owners of the 1,400-unit complex Shirley-Duke Associates, informed the city Thursday morning that escalating maintenance costs had force the closing. "We cannot continue to provide the type of service that we'd like to and is needed for the complex of this typr." Michael Stoll, area manager for Arlen Realty and Management Company, which manages the 132-building complex, said yesterday.
The closing of Shirley-Duke exemplies a growing problem for low-income residents in the Washington are: numerous apartment complexes are either being closed or, more often, transformed into condominiums that the formen tenants often cannot afford to buy. In Alexandria alone, officials predict that as many as 2,800 apartment will converted to condimiums in the next few years.
The city has created a task force to coordinate the Alexandria agencies responsible for relocating Shitrley-Duke's estimated 2,500 tenants. But City Manager Douglas Harman conceded that Alexandria "simply does not have the (housing) capacity to absorb that number of person in the time frame give."
Shirley-Duke Associates said the complex at 4447 Duke St. would be closed gradually over the next six month to a ytear. The first phase, now in effect, is to refuse to accept new tenants.
Stoll said the second phase would involve the gradual closing of some of the 132 buildings. Finally, tenants will be given notice to move out.
Harman said the city felt a "special responsibility" to relocate the 272 fa>ilies in the complex who are on welfare, and he asid the city's Department of Social Services would try to place them in any avaible housing.
Currently there is a waiting list of about 700 person for Alexandria's public housing units. In addition, the city's Health Department last week withdrew the permission for two apartment complexes with a total of 511 units to rent their vacant apartments. The city alleged that the two complexes. Cameron Overlook and Dutchess Gardens, are violating the city's housing code.
Rents at Shirley-Duke range from $150 for a non-bedroom apartment to $225 for a three-bedroom unit. Most of the families living there earn between $7,000 and $8,000 a year, according to Stoll.
He said that the ride in maintenance costs and vandalism were among the problems faced by Shirley-Duke Associates. "As a result of those problems we are have costs, we cannot justify any longer," Stoll said.
Robert Carrion 26, who worked as a maintenance man at the complex until last week said the three-story, drab red brick buildings had serious plumbing problems and that spare plumbing parts are not always avaible.
"The other day I asked out the pipes in ten sinks," he said during an interview in his apartment. "Then I went into the shop and she (his supervisor) gave me six more to do." It was then that he decided to quit.
Carrion blamed many of the problems on the tenants, who he said frequently failed to report clogged-up sinks and toilets and dripping faucets until the bathroom or kitchen areas became flooded.
Iyonne Fanika, 28, who has lived with her husband at Shirley-Duke for more than tow years said she had had constant problems with her bathroom. Evry two or three months the water runs over," she said. Then its fixed and two or three months later it does the same thing.
City officials said they hope that the gradual shutdown of the complex will give them enough time to relocate everyone of that new buyers will be found who want to renovate the dwellings.
"It's not an immenent thing"," Jane E. Byerly, who heads the city's land lodr-tenant office, said of the closing. "No one will put out oimmediately. No 30-day notices have been given or are anticipated."
Byerly said that although she had not learned of the owners' decision to close the apartments until Thursday morning, the decision had not come as a total surprise to her because of the rpoblems at the complex over the past several years. "Looking lack, it was ligica!," she added.
Noting that the President Life insurance Co., which owns the deteriorating Regina Apartments nearby, is eager to sell the property, Harman said that "it is not will be found who willl want to renovate Shirley-Duke as well. Unit that hawppens, he added, Regina and Shirley-Duke "will continue to be in a state of potential collapse."
Stoll, the Shirley-Duke manager, said he was not aware of the plan to sell the property and he said he had not been told by the owners what their plans are.
City officials was still trying yesterday to figure out the implications the decision to close Shirley-Duke will have on the city. One possible casuality may be the Patrick Henry Elem>ntary School, which has 480 pupils from the Shirley-Duke complex among its 580 students.%T"It's difficult to know how many of these youngters will be relocated in Alexandria," said Dennis Leone, spokesman for the city's public schools. "When you're taking about 1,200 families you're talking about a lot of school kids."
When they were first built at the end of the 1940s, the Shirley-Duke and Regina complexes were the largfest post-World War 11 apartment developments in the Washington metropolitan area.
"The story behind Shirley-Duke is the desire of the builders and financing corporation to build comfortable housing for the middle-income white collar worker," a post article said at the time.