Real Estate

State to Former Montrose Skylane Apartments: Clean Up or Close

Complex at 1901 Richmond called a common nuisance and haven for criminals

By John Lomax October 25, 2013

Essentially contending it remains the hive of scum and villainy that neighbors (and police) have long reported it to be, the State of Texas and Harris County attorney Vince Ryan have sued the real property known as 1901 Richmond (formerly one of several Skylane complexes in the city) and its owner, Fat Property LLC. Ryan and assistant county attorney Celena Vinson contend that multiple aggravated assaults and drug offenses have occured on the premises between August of last year and this month, a time period that also saw police summoned to the property about 100 times. According to the suit, all that nefarious devilry constitutes a common nuisance, one the complex's owners knew about and have done too little to abate.

The state seeks an injunction forcing the complex to post a bond of between $5,000 and $10,000, clean up the crime or forfeit the bond and shut down for a year.

"It kinda calmed down there a couple of summers ago, but this past year it was bad," says Kurt Brennan of Sound Exchange, the venerable record shop catty-corner from the complex. "It was like an episode of Cops outside our window every day. There would be like four cops surrounding some guy on the ground, gesticulating wildly, telling some elaborate story. It was pretty entertaining really."

According to DPS records, no fewer than four registered sex offenders live in the complex's 40-odd units, which seems a little lower than that total was in its super-sketchy Skylane heyday. 

Apprised of the newly-filed suit by Houstonia, Fat Property head Cody Lutsch said that the complex is now about 1000 times better than it was before he bought it two years ago. "I have no idea why they would be filing a lawsuit," he added. "Obviously I will defend it, and I have no reason to think I would lose."

Lutsch has been snapping up and sprucing up downmarket Montrose and Midtown apartment complexes in recent years and even won a Swampie from for his 2012 turnaround of a formerly decrepit Midtown complex on Holman Street.  

Image: Greg Wood

There were high hopes Lutsch could do something similar with this complex, which was also once amusingly known as "the Houston Medical Apartments," but to hear the state tell it, cleaning up the Richmond Skylane has proven to be a Sisyphean task, even for somebody with Lutsch's money and credentials.

We once spent a memorable evening there during the Great Hurricane Rita scare of '05. The night the storm scraped past to the east, and the city was all-but-empty and in a state of near-anarchy for those who remained behind, an old guy had wheeled a cooler full of beer and a 1980s vintage hi-fi stereo from his unit to the curb. There he blasted 50 Cent, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye to his companions—a couple of downward-spiraling strippers—and passersby alike. 

"Our manager left and we're poor folks," said one of the ladies. "We just don't know how to act," she smiled. "Yeah," I replied, hoisting a Lone Star tall-boy. "When the Man evacuates, you must celebrate."

Fast forward to today, and the new phrase is: "When the state litigates, you must abate."

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