The new owners of the Atrium, the posh Rosslyn condominium troubled for two years by a complex bankruptcy case and a variety of construction problems, accepted deposits from 76 prospective buyers this week as sales began again.
"We think it's an extraordinary showing of public confidence in this building," said Raymond Yancy, the managing agent of the 341-unit building at 1530 N. Key Blvd.
Meanwhile, the new owners, composed of a group of 12 lending institutions that purchased the building this spring at a foreclosure sale, honored three contracts held by would-be buyers who signed sales documents over the past two years with the building's former owners.
Robert Rausch, a Fairfax attorney who represents the lending group, said the owners are in final negotiations with about 35 other contract holders.
About 80 to 100 individuals had signed contracts and left large deposits with the Atrium's former owner, Knightsbridge Development Co. of McLean, before it went bankrupt last year.
Those who do not settle with the new owners are considered unlikely to see their deposit money again, since more than $900,000 in down payments is missing despite the efforts of several state and county agencies to locate the funds.
Several of the so-called contract purchasers and unit owners have complained that the building's owners are not bargaining in good faith, although the lenders have maintained otherwise.
In addition, these purchasers and several individuals who already own Atrium units said the lending group has been slow to provide various services, including numerous amenities.
Geoffrey Simril of J.E. Robert Co., which is marketing the Atrium, said that the building's owners have spent more than $1 million in providing amenities, such as new furniture, carpeting, landscaping and equipment for the health center, and have repaired air conditioning units and a malfunctioning fountain in the lobby.
He said a pool and tennis courts will be finished before the end of the year.
Charles Llenza, one of the contract purchasers who was allowed to move into his unit last year under a presettlement occupancy agreement with the former owners, said he will face losing more than $17,000 in deposits and other expenses if his contract is not honored by the lending group.
He said the contract he has been offered by the new owners, which he called "ridiculously one-sided that makes me responsible for everything," would raise his original purchase price by $4,500.
"They don't ask you anything. They just tell you how it's going to be," said Llenza, an engineer with the Navy.
Llenza said that after months of confrontations with the building's residents, the Atrium's new owners waited until just before last week's reopening before installing lobby furniture, opening a health center and repainting deteriorating walls and the entranceway.
"They're saying everything has been solved, which is not true," said Llenza, a member of an organized group of about 100 of the Atrium's unit owners and would-be buyers.
But Yancy, the Atrium's managing agent, said he no longer recognizes the building's unit owners' group, which he called "a splinter group." He said he would handle individual complaints or those from the homeowners' association, a group formed last week. That body's three-member board of directors, however, has no unit owners on it. It is composed of a lending official, one of the Atrium's partners and Yancy.
At last weekend's reopening, potential buyers began lining up nearly 24 hours before the selling spree began for the estimated 250 unsold units at the Atrium, where prices range between $80,000 and $575,000.
Included in the crowd was a pregnant woman who slept on the sidewalk and would-be buyers who paid others to stand in line for them, Simril said.
He said about 20 buyers of the 76 who made deposits signed contracts this week. Settlements are expected to be held over the next two months, Simril said.
Janna Harkrider, who flew in from California for the Saturday sale, said confusion reined during the day-long vigil while would-be buyers waited to talk to sales agents.
"It was absolute chaos out there," said Harkrider, the health, safety and legislative chairwoman of the Union of Flight Attendants, who is relocating to Washington.
Harkrider, who didn't get the penthouse unit she sought, nonetheless made a $10,000 deposit on another unit. But she said Atrium sales agents refused to give her any information about closing dates. "I can't even get a floor plan," she said.