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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

N. Toledo residents tired of shuttered apartment site

After a rain, a neighbor says, sewer gas can be smelled coming from the complex on Manhattan and Suder. After a rain, a neighbor says, sewer gas can be smelled coming from the complex on Manhattan and Suder.

The graffiti on a brick wall of the North Pointe apartments puts a face on the boarded-up complex - figuratively and literally.

The hastily scrawled spray paint face seems to sneer at its neighbors to the north.

The feeling is mutual.

“It's terrible,” Jessica Willbrandt said, nodding to the buildings across a chain-link fence that runs along her Angelbrook Court property. “Would you want to live here?”

Six years after it closed after a resident-landlord dispute that got so heated the on-site manager left with a bullet hole in her van, a lot has changed - and yet little has changed - at the 114-unit complex on Manhattan Boulevard near Suder Avenue.

A lot has changed behind the scenes in that city officials took the former owner to court, and the new property owner, Brad Topolski, has tried several times to put together the financing to reopen it. He's rewired one of the buildings and had a new roof placed on it.

But little has changed in that the three-story buildings remain boarded up - collecting insects, birds, vermin and vandals. Raw sewage streams through the grass, and broken glass and old tires litter a pocked parking lot.

“It's just more than I can handle at the present time,” Mr. Topolski said. “It's happening, just not as fast as I'd like it to.”

For one thing, he said, government funding wasn't as forthcoming as he thought. Now, an Atlanta developer is eyeballing the project, he said.

But if the past is any indication, it won't be an easy sale.

Though the five structures are sound and the nearly six acres offer established landscaping in a somewhat secluded setting, the buildings are plagued with mold and mildew and will need down-to-the-studs renovations.

Neighbor Julie Martin said the mess housed a “cat-sized rat” that recently chewed its way into her garage.

“I would love to see a park, ideally,” she said. “When I walk outside my home after a heavy rain, you can smell the sewer gas.”

A La Jolla, Calif., company was interested in the apartments last year. The firm, Hampstead Partners, is renovating the 176-unit Cherrywood apartments near downtown Toledo.

But Hampstead president Chris Foster estimated it would cost $5 million to gut the North Pointe complex and replace its walls, floors, cabinets, and utilities. Even with tax credits, he said, it wasn't worth it.

David Eddy, executive director of NorthRiver Development Corp., said whatever the deal for North Pointe - if there is one - might include the 96-unit Bayview apartments next door. That complex was built in 1971.

“North Pointe's choking Bayview to death right now,” said. “Neither can survive without the other.”

Owner Jeff Ziegler, who purchased Bayview just months before North Pointe closed, said there was a waiting list for his complex, which was full. Today, only about four of every five Bayview units are occupied, he said.

He's considering selling. “I've put a lot of money into Bayview,” Mr. Ziegler said. “Brad's a nice enough guy, but [North Pointe is] more than he can handle. And I'm not sinking a lot more money into Bayview with a boarded-up complex next to it.”

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