The Hot Beat

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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Hot Property #7: Commonwealth Apartments

The Commonwealth Apartment at 1400 Second Ave. SE rank seventh among residential properties that police were called to most often in 2008.

Police were called there 93 times. Considering the seven-story brick building has 110 apartments in it, that’s not an astonishing number of police calls. Rent (which is by the week) at the place is in the $600/month range.

The building is owned by WDJ Investments, and the manager is Jeff Frese.

I don’t see anything terribly shocking about the building in the archives, but the building does have an interesting history.

It was built in 1925, and at one point (hard to imagine now) there was a baseball park near it. It was supposed to be really fancy, with a 20-foot ceiling in the lobby. The art deco building was considered the height of luxury. The six stories were a self-contained community with its own dining room and laundry service.

Writer John Goulet lived there as a boy in the 1950s. Katherine Morrison, a resident there in the 1940s, was the first Eastern Iowa woman accepted by
the WAVES, the women’s division of the United States Navy.

In 1998, Bill and Donna Frese, then the new owners of the building, hoped to restore some of the building’s Jazz Age opulence.

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Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , ,

Fire hazards at Hampton Court, #3

The basement hallway leading to the exit is blocked with shelves and other stuff. Several (perhaps all) the building’s smoke detectors don’t work.

The Hampton Courts are at 1261 and 1263 First Ave. SE, and fire protection isn’t the only problem.

Police were called to the two buildings 279 times in 2008.

One of the basement apartments in 1263 is unlocked and the floor is scattered with debris, with holes in the ceiling inside and outside above the door. The basement ceiling is spotted with holes.

Mold is growing in one of the apartments looking out on First Avenue and paint is peeling off the wall and piling up on the floor.

“These apartments are f—ed up,” said Timothy Van Ostran, who lives upstairs. “Every single one of them has something wrong with it.”

Van Ostran said it’s easy to rent there. No background checks.

“All you’ve got to do is come with the rent,” he said. “You don’t even need a deposit.”

I ran into the building manager, who lives there. He wanted to know who I was. I told him. I asked his name. He said his name was “Johnny.”

Later, we walked outside, where he called the higher-ups at Preferred Property Management, and then said: “Officially, I’m supposed to give no comment, and ask you to leave.”

Preferred Property Management runs the property, which is owned by James D. Houghton, who I called again this afternoon, but couldn’t reach.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , ,

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