By Hannah Denham
You can smell cigarette smoke as soon as you enter the Skyline Manor Apartment complex, just past the “no smoking signs” posted outside of the building. Hallways have stained carpeting, and some apartment units have unsealed windows that let in the cold air.
Christina Nicely, the complex’s property manager, said tenants use water heaters, appliances and cabinets that haven’t been updated in 23 years.
“It’s all outdated,” Nicely said. “We do the best with what we get.”
The Glasgow City Council approved the first ever remodeling of the low-income apartment complex for seniors and disabled people on March 13.
Landmark Property Management Company of Winston-Salem, N.C., owns the complex. Landmark Vice President Sam Sari said the company would need help financing the $3.8 million project in order for the renovation to move forward.
Sari said Landmark will hear back from the Virginia Housing Development Authority about its application for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit on May 30. He said 70 percent of the remodeling would be covered by the tax credit. He said the town of Glasgow would renew two existing loans for the remainder of the cost.
Sari said the renovation includes work on roofing, flooring, windows, carpeting and the parking lot. Handicapped units would be updated, and old appliances would be replaced with new ones that are up to par with current energy standards, which would lower utility costs for residents.
“We are choosing to complete this rehab because we believe it is our duty to provide the highest quality affordable housing for our residents and the surrounding community, and because we recognize the age of the property,” Sari said in an email.
Landmark is a third-generation family-owned company. Sari said his grandfather first bought the historic school building 23 years ago and transformed it into an apartment complex.
“He really always liked the Glasgow community,” he said.
Sari said the company would also use two historic tax credits for supplementary funding, which would help preserve the historic appearance of the building.
Landmark is currently looking into where tenants could live if the renovation moves forward. Sari said Landmark would likely have to move tenants to rentals or hotels in Lexington since there isn’t much available rental housing near Skyline.
“We’re going to try to not disturb people as much as possible,” Sari said. “This is their home. It’s not like they’re going on vacation. We want to make sure they’re comfortable.”
Boyce Austin, 79, who is originally from Arnold Valley in Rockbridge County, has been a tenant for four years at Skyline Manor.
“It’s kind of cold,” he said. “I hope they fix the heating system.”
Richard Langford, 56, moved to the county from Houston five years ago. A former truck driver now in a wheelchair and on disability, he said he wishes the apartments and appliances were more wheelchair accessible but otherwise likes the affordability.
“It’s cheaper than anything that is outside this building,” he said.
Langford said he pays about $170 a month to live there, and the cost has increased by $20 over the past five years.
Nicely, the property manager, said the income bracket for one person to qualify to live at Skyline Manor is $20,950 and increases every year. The complex has 32 units, all of which are filled. She said open spots fill up quickly – last week, one unit opened on Friday and someone is moving into it this Thursday. Two people are on the waiting list.
“It’s so cheap you can’t beat the price,” Nicely said. “I wish we had more apartments.”
Glasgow Town Manager Bill Rolfe said there’s a need for more affordable housing in Rockbridge County.
“A lot of the housing, particularly in the town of Glasgow, is pre-World War II housing,” Rolfe said. “I think that we have a lot of people that have bought property for investment purposes and don’t take as good care of it as they should.”
Rolfe said he met with Sari twice in February to show him private properties in Glasgow that could potentially be made into more low-income housing.
Sari said Landmark would be interested in developing more affordable housing units in Glasgow and the broader Rockbridge area so long as there is demand for it.
“We’re not going to go in and build something that a town doesn’t want,” he said. “I think Glasgow is a great community. We’d absolutely look at adding more units.”