Archive for Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In wake of settlement, Boardwalk Apartment owners asking tenants to leave quickly

Lawyer offers little information on why tenants asked to leave

Tory Runnells and other tenants at the Boardwalk Apartment complex, 524 Frontier Road, received a notice Friday that the apartment buildings “do not comply with fire safety standards.” Tenants have been urged to find other housing, and current tenants’ leases will not be renewed.

Tory Runnells and other tenants at the Boardwalk Apartment complex, 524 Frontier Road, received a notice Friday that the apartment buildings “do not comply with fire safety standards.” Tenants have been urged to find other housing, and current tenants’ leases will not be renewed.

May 19, 2009


Boardwalk Apartments undergo changes in wake of fire

Change is on the way for the Boardwalk Apartments as a deadly fire in 2005 is displacing residents. Enlarge video

The owners of Boardwalk Apartments are asking all tenants to quickly leave their apartment complex, so they can do “something different” with it, an attorney said Tuesday.

Tenants have been urged to find somewhere else to live for their safety, according to a letter distributed to them on Friday and signed by Todd Thompson, a Lawrence attorney representing the ownership group, Boardwalk Apartments L.C.

An October 2005 fire at the apartment complex killed three people and left 20 injured, several of whom had to jump from the third floor of the apartment complex.

“The owner made the decision that after a horrible tragedy they just would like to have the complex vacated so that they can pursue other options,” Thompson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. He did not provide specifics on the plans for the apartment complex, 524 Frontier Road, which is currently valued at about $3.5 million by the Douglas County appraiser’s office.

The letter to tenants said the owners of the complex had recently been informed that the apartment buildings did “not comply with fire safety standards for newly constructed apartment buildings, and may not comply with the city’s fire safety code.”

Several fire victims and family members reached a $12 million out-of-court settlement with the complex on May 6.

Thompson, who did not represent the complex or its management company during the civil proceedings, said the decision not to renew leases was made “because of information and opinions rendered in the litigation.”

The lawsuit, which was settled out-of-court and paid by Boardwalk’s insurance company, alleged the apartment complex had an inadequate fire suppression system, alarm system and escape routes.

Jason Rose was convicted of setting the fire, and he currently is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

The fire killed Jose Gonzalez, Yolanda Riddle and Nicole Bingham.

The apartment complex is refunding tenants’ security deposits and allowing them to vacate the facility, without penalty, before the end of their lease terms. Thompson said the leases end at various times of the year.

While the ownership group has already won City Commission approval to construct new apartments at the site of the fire, Thompson said plans for the existing structures “has not been determined” and that the owners were weighing their options.


Alison Roberts 8 years, 10 months ago

Maybe they will tear them down and build some respectable new apartments! That would be convenient for me since I can see the existing buildings from my office window.

igby 8 years, 10 months ago

In 1989, this was a respectable place to live. One of my friends, a lawyer lived there with his wife. There were a lot of college students living there and it was quite and pleasant at the pool and the parking lots were filled with late model or new cars.

Now! The lots are jammed pack with beaters and all are backed in so to hide the license plates. Illegal Mexicans roaming the parking lots late at night and a list of who's who on parole and probation live or hide there.

It's in a need for change like Hampton Court, Ridge court and the Red Bud.

Even though, it took a scumbag like Rose, to do what 45 years of partying college students could not accomplish; a major fire. I still have to wonder just why the fire reached a stage and point where the fire department could not control the spread of it. It was set on the outside, so they say. The long width of the building and the stairwells are all open to spray down with hoses.

Those new apartments behind Wal*Mart that are going up now are all light wood construction and so are many other newer apartments in town built with overhanging exterior stairwells with covered roofs on all the entryways.

When they are old are they no different than when there new? Or is it the tenants that make in a fire trap? In the case of Roses' type, that is.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 10 months ago

Do these people all have a place to move to?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

A $12 million lawsuit victory in court determined the tenants should leave quickly?

Was it not a fire trap before the verdict?

Would they have been allowed to stay on business as usual had the verdict favored the property owners?

cutny 8 years, 10 months ago

How did the shoddy, below-code construction ever pass inspection to begin with?

shorttrees 8 years, 10 months ago

Wow, they sure work fast! It only took them 3 and a half years to make "the decision that after a horrible tragedy they just would like to have the complex vacated so that they can pursue other options" . If they had done this 3 years ago, maybe. Now it's just a case of CYA so they don't end up paying out even more if (when) it happens again.

somebodynew 8 years, 10 months ago

igby - I agree with your post details and figure you must live near there. As to your question about the fire spread. It is (was) part of the problem as to construction why the fire spread so quickly. With all that open space and the way the stairwells were built, once it started the stairwells basically became a "blower" and forced the fire movement. (Not the right term, but can't think of it.)

Then you add in all the years with those wood deckings and coat upon coat of re-painting and you have a massive fuel load. Plus the stories of lots of "stuff" stored on the decks, like furniture to add into it, the fire just grew very quickly. (Now, all this is not to say I really back the initial FD efforts that night, but it was a no-win situation for tthem.)

cuyny- If I remember the reported stories correctly, the original construction was up to code waaaay back when they were built (pre 1980 when I moved here), and there is some obscure clause in the codes that says they didn't have to conform to new codes unless they remodled a building.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 10 months ago

I heard from an ex-manager there that the natural gas lines actually ran through pipes across the roof. The other tenants who weren't injured were very lucky there wasn't an explosion if that's true. Hampton Court, Ridge Court and Redbud should take notice. It's only a matter of time.....

Hwy50 8 years, 10 months ago

They probably decided to close now because they could no longer afford the insurance after losing the case.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 10 months ago

Hwy50- You're probably right. The property is valued at 3.5 million and they just settled out of court for 12 million.

Sharon Aikins 8 years, 10 months ago

And maybe they weren't allowed to do anything until the whole court thing was finished. If you read, the settlement was paid by their insurance company. They weren't paying on the value of the buildings but to families and victims of the fire. Makes you wonder what position they are in with the insurance company after that. Could be that it's cheaper at this point to start over than to try to salvage and remodel what's already there.

I picked up clients there a couple of times around '77-'78 and they weren't the nicest then. As I recall, they were remodeled sometime after '85 and have gone downhill ever since. I'm sure when those were built and even remodeled, they where within the building codes at that time.

My daughter moved into a new complex in the early '90's under the condition that she promise me she would only live there a year or two as I was afraid they would fall down around her. Hopefully the construction going on now is of higher quality.

RomanNose 8 years, 10 months ago

Years ago I worked at a steak house on Iowa Street. We had this really slow guy working there. Apparently he had been abandoned by his parents at a young age and had been living in some sort of foster care. He would always talk about how his parents were coming to visit him soon and that there were plans for him to be getting an apartment of his own in the near future.

One day we tried to let him change out the oil in the deep fat fryers by himself.

He understood that he could turn the deep fat fryer's oil release handle to release the scorching hot grease, but it wasn't in his capacity to use the oil filter pan to catch the burning hot oil. Hot oil went all over the floor(and his pant leg) for a good 10 seconds before anybody caught on and pulled the lever to stop the flow of hot oil. Such a menial task was way above his mentality.

I suppose I'll never know if his parents ever came back to visit him, but one thing is for certain- Jason Rose definitely got his own apartment. After I heard about the apartments the first thing I thought about was the fryer grease incident.

True story.

Joel Hood 8 years, 10 months ago

I lived at what used to be called Jayhawk West (later Boardwalk) apartments in the mid to late 1980's. It was a dump until 1988 when they remodeled the entire complex. It wasn't exactly the nicest place to live then, but it was cheap. I moved out right before they remodeled. I lived on the 1st floor, but the design of the buildings made the upper floors a fire trap. There were limited ways to exit. In the current economy, who knows what will be done with that property.

Kawatchi 8 years, 10 months ago

Think they will try to build a Wal-Mart there?

imzo2002 8 years, 10 months ago

As a person displaced by the decision to do "who knows what" to the boardwalk apartments, I take offence to the comments posted here. I work 3 jobs and still can not make enough to live anywhere decent. My lease happens to end next month and I was already looking for suitable housing elsewhere. I have seen prices on apartments, duplexes and such rise in the last few days. I think this is a terrible thing that is happening. So quit complaining you could be me....

bluerose 8 years, 10 months ago

oh great.

now i'll never be able to find a new apartment this summer ... with all this competition.

Scott Drummond 8 years, 10 months ago

I'll chime in too. I lived at Boardwalk circa 1989-91 during my last days at KU & it was an alright place. Even lived in the building that burned at one point. My ex and I were just struggling kids, but there were lots of good folks living there and lots of good memories for me. It'll become a gas station or office park or something boring now, I suppose.

sunandmoon9900 8 years, 10 months ago

Yes, absolutely true... Boardwalk Apartments does have it's treasure trove of unsavory characters, however there are some decent hardworking people who live there with their families. Yep, I said it... good respectable individuals who are being displaced from their homes and being forced to find something as affordable here in Lawrence that has a better reputation... It's a shame that there is NO place that will meet the above stated standard. Well, anyway... Never mind the personal standing of each individual tenant, I think what has kept Boardwalk's reputation at a less than respectable level has been the owners and the management's standard of maintenance, safety, staff, tenants, etc...

Ace_Ventura 8 years, 10 months ago

They might turn it into a bank. I think we are due for another bank. It has been a few months since a new one has been built.

Sigmund 8 years, 10 months ago

Not only did Boardwalk meet code for new construction when they were built, but it met code for existing construction the last time it was inspected by LFD. Was it the nicest, newest, safest place to live? Nope, but you didn't pay the highest rents either. If a nut job decides to torch the nicest, safest, newest place to live with the highest rent expect people to die there as well!

If I were the owners I would bulldoze leave it as a empty lot. Property taxes on a empty lot have to be cheaper than on a apartment complex. Screw the tenants, let them find a safer more expensive place to live with rents to match. Oh wait, no one is allowed to build anything new. Too bad, so sorry.

Jaime Baggett 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm with sunandmoon, the children who are living there and that have been living there are already set up in their schools and networked with friends. Some of these children are the ones who really need friends and support network like teachers who know their circumstances. This is a very sad situation for those children who now may not be sure about what school is next and if they'll be accepted the same way this time around. Very sad.

RKLOG 8 years, 10 months ago

I delivered pizzas there during 1989-1992. No offense to the residents but I thought that the place was pretty shotty. The stairways were all painted plywood and mostly 2x4s. The plywood walkways leading up to the unit doorways would bend under my footsteps and you could get a sort of rhythmic bounce going by walking on them. But it didn't seem out of place back then, seeing that there were so many slum lords renting out.

BigPrune 8 years, 10 months ago

The guy killed 3 people and only got 10 years?

davis 8 years, 10 months ago

I lived at Boardwalk during the fire. I helped many of my neighbors handing out clothes, food, coffee and a place to get out of the cold before Red Cross set up. I stayed at Boardwalk after the fire for over a year. My apartment needed many repairs. I ask management to make the repairs several times. They did not make the repairs. October 2007 it started getting cold, I again asked for the windows to be fixed as it was getting cold. The repairs were not made. In November 2007 I moved out due to illness from the windows not be repaired, as it would get so cold at night (I lived in a basement unit). Management immediately changed the lock on my apartment. I was not able to get lots of my personal items and could not clean the apartment! BOARDWALK SUED ME FOR $2,600, THEY SAID I DAMAGED THE UNIT, WHICH I DID NOT. Moving my be a hassel for the current residents, but it is for the best. That place should have been closed down years ago. How could they sue anyone for damages if the place is condemed!

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 10 months ago

imzo2002-I'm sorry this is an inconvenience for you. I know rents are ridiculous here in Lawrence, but you really need to be somewhere safer. It may be easier to find someplace now that most of the students are gone or in the process of leaving, but it seems like this is the time of year when the "mass move" takes place as a lot of student leases are up the end of May. I wish you luck.Your safety should be the most important thing.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 10 months ago

seems to me that if you have a lease, and you're being "asked" to move immediately, the current landlord is breaking the lease. This is not a contract for you to them. It's a contract between both parties. I would think that the landlord should have to pay the difference in rent (within reason) for these people to find a new apartment. This would at least give individuals an immediate ability to get into something new, and probably several months to adjust to a higher rent somewhere else.

mleanna 8 years, 10 months ago

For any current Boardwalk residents looking for a place to live, I know Crescent Heights has at least one 2-bedroom immediately available due to a lease cancellation. It's nothing fancy but is probably closer to that price range than most places in Lawrence. I'm sure there are others but I thought that might help someone who is now needing somewhere else to live.

I feel your pain in trying to find somewhere affordable; it's not easy in this economy or in this town. Good luck to everyone affected by this!

leighmchatton 8 years, 10 months ago

Advocacy for fire safety standards in housing is greatly needed and until improvements to the fire and building safety standards and their enforcement are made (on multiple levels), the problem will persist.

Fire is a very real risk for everyone regardless of where you live or how much you pay for it. Please be aware that many newly constructed apartment buildings are being specifically designed to ‘get around’ the codes requiring the installation of sprinkler systems and other safety standards in order to cut costs.

In the debates over responsibility across the board, let us not forget what we can do to protect ourselves. I lived at the Boardwalk Apartments and survived the fire. The unthinkable happened and I was not prepared. I created my escape plan in a matter of moments after my home was already ablaze and came out worse for wear. I was not responsible for the fire and I don’t blame myself for my injuries. However, I would be remiss to not learn from such a powerful experience. Be prepared. Regardless of what kind of housing you live in; create a fire safety plan for your home and encourage others to do the same. Assistance creating this plan can be found at It is of the utmost importance that you be proactive in your own safety.

To all those affected by this fire, you remain in my prayers.

Leigh McHatton

p.s. BigPrune, There were limitations on the number of years allowed in the sentencing due to the jury’s conclusion that Jason Rose set the fire but never intended harm to anyone.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 10 months ago

There are apartments available at Spanish Crest which is on 27th and Iowa just east of Runza but not until August. They are not the best, but they are clean, with nice landscaping and it is a quiet place. If you ride the bus you can catch the 7, 8 or the 5 from there. Finding an apartment in this town is a full time job. I think that some places over near 24th and Ridge Court stopping renting to Section Eight clients because the units couldn't pass the inspection. Which is a good thing you get with Section Eight, your apartment will be up to certain standards. I know how bad the people who live at Boardwalk must be feeling right now, like the ground dropped right from under them. Bad things happen to people though no fault of their own.

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