City of Orange approves additional Sabine Park Apartments demolition

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, January 24, 2024

ORANGE — The continued demolition of Sabine Park Apartments was approved by City of Orange leaders in the name of resident safety and municipal beautification.

Present Orange City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to award a $55,000 bid to Manshack & Sons for demolition of 11 buildings and the parking lot at 605 1st Street.

Orange Housing Officer Kelvin Knauf said this is Section 3 of Sabine Park Apartments, noting numerous structures were already torn down in the summer of 2023 that represented Sabine Park Apartments Section 4.

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“If you remember, they had significant problems caused by the deep freeze a year ago,” Knauf said, adding the city received several demolition bids and evaluated each before presenting a recommendation before the city council.

Mayor Larry Spears thanked city staff involved in the process, which took several years and involved numerous court proceedings.

He added rumormongers in the community incorrectly said the City of Orange was trying to gentrify the community around Sabine Park Apartments.

“Those apartments were deplorable, full of mold,” according to Spears. “They were not suitable for habitation, and it is our job to ensure that we do right by our people.

“This property isn’t owned by (the city), and we’re not able to sell that or give it to somebody, but we were able to use funding to get rid of these deplorable pieces of property.”

According to City Manager Mike Kunst, the city council approved using reserve funds to pay for the demolition of Section 4 in 2023. Since then, the city was reimbursed by the new owners.

The budget for the current fiscal year has money allocated for demolition.

There is still the possibility the city is again reimbursed by the new owners for the latest efforts.

The new property owner of Sabine Park Apartments is Saluda Grade, with offices in New York and Colorado. Saluda Grade officials told the city they are working on different options for the property and trying to determine what’s best for the company, potential investors and the City of Orange.

During the Tuesday meeting closing comments, District 4 Councilwoman Mary McKenna also thanked city staff for their efforts in working to demolish some of Orange’s blighted properties.

“I live a stone’s throw from those apartments, and they have become so deplorable,” she said. “The face of that area is already starting to lift because of the houses that were taken down before. Now it is going to get even better.

“It is going to make Orange look better for all the homes and structures that will be coming down that are not homes anymore. They are just falling-down structures all over town. I can’t thank you enough for a bigger, better, brighter Orange.”

Long process

Uninhabitable living conditions and the refusal of property owners to bring Sabine Park Apartments up to standard led to the demolition of the large-scale apartment complex in Orange.

Orange City Council members present at May 23, 2023’s meeting voted unanimously to demolish the first set of structures.

Knauf said there were nine buildings and dozens of apartment units included in that demolition vote.

The city employee of more than nine years said this was an unprecedented action taken by the municipality concerning a large-scale residential complex during his tenure.

“There have been some properties that we have gone this far with but never an apartment complex,” he said at the time.

That was not for a lack of trying as city officials noted months of effort were made to contact property owners and managers in New York City and Grapevine, Texas.

It is situations like these, the city funds all the initial expenditures and has the option to file a lien against the property in hopes of recouping its costs.

Sabine Park Apartments residents were first notified in April of 2023 to vacate the property following a ruling in Orange Municipal Court that the facilities were legally uninhabitable.