Fort Smith Board may consider demolition of 163-unit apartment complex

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 3,803 views 

The city of Fort Smith has condemned a vacant and dilapidated apartment complex at 3600 Kinkead Ave., with one city official suggesting the property, which does contain asbestos, should be demolished.

As of April 2, each of the 24 structures, which contain a total of 163 units, located on the property have had red tags placed on them declaring the structures unsafe and prohibiting occupancy, said Jimmie Deer, director of building services for the city. Notices of Condemnation for both the owner and mortgage company have been posted.

“I sent out unsafe notices to the owners and mortgage company on March 31, starting the unsafe action on all 24 units. This process to get to the point of assigning a contractor to demolish if the owners do not will take around 90 days working with administration and the board of directors meeting dates,” Deer said in a memo on the issue.

The city has had on and off action on the property under the Property Maintenance Code since 2010, Deer said. The property has had eight owners since 2001. The owner in 2016 obtained a $500,000 building permit for a Phase 1 repairs in October of that year. He had several inspections before dropping the project, Deer said.

Jason Nguyen of Texas took over the property in 2017 and still owns it, Deer said. In July 2019, a warning notice was posted on the property and mailed to the owner. There was more correspondence and communication over the next two years. The property was set to be auctioned in February 2021, but because no one met the minimum price, it was not, Deer said in the memo.

Nguyen did not appear in court in March 2021, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Since that time there have been attempts to purchase the property, but no one has met the price Nguyen set for the property, Deer said.

“We have told them the city will work with a prospective buyer in any way possible,” Deer said.

Vice Mayor and Director Jarred Rego posted about the apartment complex on his Facebook account in March saying the condition of the property is completely unacceptable.

“These pictures are of a failed apartment complex located at 3600 Kinkead Avenue here in Ward 1. It covers over 4 acres and stretches from Kinkead to Park Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets. Over three dozen homes closely border this facility and have to endure views of buildings like this each and every day,” Reggo said. “In our thriving and growing city, no resident should expect to live with a failure like this right in the middle of their neighborhood.”

Deer said preliminary estimates for the complete demolition of the property range from $612,000 to $954,000. He said the city received estimates about taking demolition in steps rather than all at once which could spread the cost out over time, but he does not recommend that.

He also said some cities handle demolition with their own staff. If that could be done, the city would only have the cost of removing asbestos, which would cost around $200,000. Before any demolition work would be done, the board would have to approve the expense, he said.

“It’s time to demolish it,” Deer said. “It’s just a mess. Something has to be done.”

Director Kevin Settle said during Tuesday’s (April 12) study session the city should own the property before spending the money to have the property demolished.

“I’m thinking down the road at the next blighted property. What would keep them from having us do the demolition and then they get to keep the property?” Settle said.

If the demolition does occur, a lien would be put on the property for the cost of doing so, City Administrator Carl Geffken said. It will be May 17 before the board can be asked to go forward with the demolition process, Deer said.