After a Year of Problems, Bailey Senior Housing Center Changes Management

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Monday, August 5, 2019, 7:45 am
Andrew Graham

Photos by Raymond Holt.

It’s been 14 months since the Bailey Center senior apartments have opened, and the fire detection system is still setting off what appear to be false alarms. As recently as July 15, a little after 8 a.m., sirens again accompanied the groggy exodus of frustrated residents.

In just more than a year of operation as a mixed-use building — including 36 senior apartments, a daycare facility, community space, and offices — the alarms have gone off 22 times, each time with ear-splitting noise designed to wake anyone sleeping. In each case, ELFD came out in response to the automated alerts.

Residents of the center who have talked with ELi explain that they see Bailey’s false fire alarm problem as a microcosm of the greater issues in its first year of operation.

From significant elements of construction not being completed upon move in of the first residents in May 2018, to safety concerns, to problems with functionality of apartments, some describe living in Bailey at times as “a nightmare.”

Chief among the complaints is what residents describe as an unresponsive management company, namely PK Housing & Management. PK Housing & Management is a sister company to PK Development Group, which invested in redevelopment of the City-owned community center.

PK Development Group was brought in in part because that company had experience obtaining HUD funding for low-income projects like this one. To get the project done, PK and Capital Area Housing Partnership formed a limited partnership to lease the property (not including the park) from the City of East Lansing at $100 per year for 45-50 years. (Read more and see the lease.)

From the renovated Bailey Center’s opening until the beginning of July, PK Housing & Management managed the apartments. And it was under PK’s watch that some residents felt their concerns and well-being were ignored.

Because many of the residents are on income assistance, and decent income-limited senior housing is hard to find in the region, the population has been nervous about raising complaints, calling ELi at regular intervals but always worried about going on the record.

Now, a positive change seems to be coming. The management of Bailey changed hands in early July.

The new management company, Continental Management, has shown promise of being a better steward. Residents point to new management staff being in the office in a predictable fashion, for starters. Residents tell ELi they hope things will get better now, particularly in terms of communication.

“We’re very familiar” with senior housing projects, said Gary Offenbacher, Continental’s Executive Vice President, adding that roughly a third of Continental’s portfolio is similar to the Bailey Center.

The building has had a number of problems.

When tenants moved in to Bailey in May of 2018, construction wasn’t complete. Some floors weren’t finished and interior walls were still being sanded and painted. Many apartments still had finishing work being done well after residents had unpacked.

Months after construction officially finished, a flaw with the windows was discovered. Several were not installed properly, according to PK's vice president of development Jacob Horner. The problem became evident when a large window fell out of its frame and into an apartment. After this accident, the windows had to be checked and secured.

Tenants have also experienced issues with appliances not working, including several “new” air conditioning units breaking down.

Last August, when one tenant’s air conditioning failed, it was upwards of 90 degrees outside for several days in a row. That woman tells ELi says she tried to get help via the “emergency service” number provided by PK for six days, without success.

That tenant finally hired a lawyer, who sent a letter to Pete Potterpin, the president of PK Management, demanding the air conditioning, among other issues, be fixed.

“Despite repeated efforts to reach someone at the emergency service number, for your facility,” the letter reads, the tenant has “still six days later NOT even received a phone call let alone had the A/C unit repaired. I don’t think I need to explain to you that it was nearly 95 this past weekend and in a senior apartment complex this is simply unacceptable.”

That tenant ended up being hospitalized for migraines, allergies, and other health issues stemming from what she says are problems with construction in the building, particularly the broken air conditioner.

Potterpin and other staff at PK have not replied to repeated requests for comment from ELi.

There are countless smaller issues playing big roles in the tenants’ lives.

The parking lot at the senior housing center only has two disability-accessible parking spots, and the one curb cutout for walkers and wheelchairs is not located near the front door but between two parking spots, making coming in and out of the building at best awkward.

In the winter, tenants say, ice and snow haven’t been regularly and sufficiently cleared away.

There aren’t grab bars in every bathroom, as might be expected in a senior housing project and some that have been installed at tenants’ request appear to be in places that don’t work or to be flimsy. (Tenants showed this reporter these problems.)

The issues have been pervasive enough that, when Continental Management took over, tenants compiled a list of concerns to be addressed, hopeful that new management will be more receptive to their needs and more communicative.

The concerns include unlocked entry doors, the false alarms, lack of grab bars, what residents say is inadequate information about emergency procedures, and questions about whether utility subsidies meant for residents are instead going to management.

The biggest issue tenants have had seems to have been the lack of communication from PK Housing.

With PK, office hours were inconsistent and, according to tenants, concerns or complaints often went undocumented, leaving no trace. No one responded to the broken air conditioner until a lawyer sent a letter.

One resident told ELi tenants did complain to the Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP), the majority investor in the project, but that things didn’t get much better.

Rawley Van Fossen, recently promoted to become the Executive Director of CAHP, says he “understands there were frustrations” from tenants in the first year, adding “it’s never perfect” when dealing with a complex new project.

Van Fossen says PK Management drove the change in the building’s management, opting not to continue their stewardship of the Bailey Center. Van Fossen declined to explain further.

Van Fossen, like residents, is optimistic about Continental taking over the management. Van Fossen cites CAHP’s previous work with that company as a positive experience.

Offenbacher, of Continental, offers what residents may see as a good sign.

“The truth is in our actions,” Offenbacher told ELi of his company’s work. “Not in what we say.”


Note: Following a suggestion by a reader, we changed the term "handicapped parking" in this article to "disability-accessible parking." We thank the reader for pointing out that the terminology we were using is outdated. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info