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Company could lose tax break because of conditions at KC apartment building

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gabriel tower
Posted at 5:53 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 18:53:13-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — The city's urban renewal agency found Wednesday the company that manages Gabriel Tower is in default of its contract.

The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) Board of Commissioners made the decision after hearing testimony from a building inspector, tenants and representatives of The Millennia Companies.

Millennia has a leaseback agreement with the LCRA for Gabriel Tower, which is located at East 16th Street and Jackson Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. As a result of the arrangement, Millennia does not pay property taxes on the building.

However, if Millennia does not take corrective action within the next 45 days, it could lose that tax break, estimated at $55,000 per year.

The LCRA move comes after months of organizing by tenants who live at Gabriel Tower. They formed a union over the summer after living without air conditioning for several weeks.

Subsequent inspections found health violations throughout the building.

A third-party company that inspected the building on Nov. 19 found several kinds of mold, including black mold, in air samples at Gabriel Tower.

On the same day, inspectors with the KCMO Health Department's Healthy Homes program found nearly 60 violations, including live cockroaches, mold on walls and ceilings, and pest entry holes on floors.

Tenants say their concerns and demands for improvement have fallen on deaf ears.

"Our homes are making us sick and in some cases, killing us," Ron McMillan, a leader with the Gabriel Tower Tenant Union, said. "We are not treated with dignity and respect by management, but rather like we are inmates in their prison."

Gabriel Tower conditions
Tenants of Gabriel Tower Apartments say their concerns and demands for improvement have fallen on deaf ears.

During Wednesday's meeting, an attorney for Millennia said work at Gabriel Tower is underway, with storage unit, vanity and baseboard repairs in multiple apartments scheduled to wrap up by the end of the week.

Lee Felgar, president of Millennia Housing Management, said the company has a "proven track record" of transforming properties.

The executive pointed to Englewood Apartments, the site of a $10.5 million construction project by Millennia.

The complex was hit with 115 health violations in September 2019. A reinspection later that month found Millennia had resolved many of the infractions.

When it comes to Gabriel Tower, Felgar said the age of the building has exacerbated issues. Millennia hired a company to complete a needs assessment on the property and investigate the water penetration problem that is leading to mold.

Since the LCRA found Millennia has breached its contract, the company has a little over a month to take action on health violations at the property. Millennia must provide short and long-term relocation plans for impacted tenants, and the company will meet with the tenant union to discuss demands.

The union is calling for the property manager to be replaced, for weekly meetings with management, for dedicated on-site security and for reparations for tenants of at least a full year of rent from Millennia for the past year of neglect.

After the 45-day period has passed, the LCRA will decide next steps. One option is to transfer the property title back to Millennia, thus stripping the company's tax abatement through the authority.