The Hot Beat


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

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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Hot Property #6, 300 31st St. NE

And we’re back! Back on the tail of Cedar Rapids landlords who own properties that can’t stop attracting the police. Sorry for the delay. We’ve still got a map, and we’re up to property number six.

It’s the Flagstone Apartments at 300 31st St. NE.

Police were called there 99 times in 2008. There are 16 apartments at that address.

Most of what I see in the archives looks like minor stuff.

Gordon Duncombe, the owner, has an office in St. Michael, Minn. The name of his company is Can-West Management.

“We have a lot of people that the county put in there,” Duncombe said. “They get stupid and they call the cops on each other.”

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

Hot Property #5: Cedarwood Hills Apartments, 2060 Glass Rd. NE

They’re the five brick apartment buildings way up on a hill looking down on Interstate 380 and Glass Road NE.

They’re marked separately on the map, but I’m treating them as one apartment complex.

If you take them together, which the city assessor’s office does, police were called there in 2008 more than any address in Cedar Rapids. 446 times.

They’re the Cedarwood Hills Apartments at 2060 Glass Rd. NE. The place has 180 units, and a search of Gazette archives shows a lot of police activity there.

Patice Bolden, the man jailed in the shooting death of Calvin Stringer in December 2007, listed Cedarwood Hills as his address. A man was accused of attempting to murder his girlfriend at Cedarwood Hills in the summer of 2007, and eventually was convicted of willful injury and assault with intent to inflict serious injury.

The apartments are owned by a Des Moines company called C.T. Corporation System, which is incorporated under Robert C. Thomson. The company’s home office is in New York City.

Track these properties on a map here.

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Alternate map

Jeremy Cobert (of CR Tea Party fame) was kind enough to whip up another map based on the data I used to build the current map of hot Cedar Rapids properties.

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Hot Property #4: 3000 J St. SW

Moving right along (sorry about all the map problems), we’ll look at the top residential property on the Hot 100.

It’s the Cedar Valley Townhouses at 3000 J St. SW. The complex has 186 units in 28 buildings, so it’s really a little town of its own. Police were called there 331 times in 2008.

A lot of it was minor police blotter stuff — some assaults, some drunk driving arrests. A 15-year-old waved a revolver at somebody.

Assuming for the sake of argument that an average of three people lives in each unit, the number of police visits to Cedar Valley Townhouses pales in comparison to the number at several smaller properties, where only a couple dozen people might live.

The apartments are arranged on a circle drive on the west side of J Street, just north of the 33rd Avenue SW exit.

The property is owned by the Affordable Housing Network, a non-profit organization affiliated with Four Oaks that accepts Section 8 housing vouchers. It took over for the MidAmerica Housing Partnership after that organization failed.

The network operates rental properties in all four quadrants of Cedar Rapids.

I’ve learned not to make too many promises about what I’ll do with the map, but I am trying to put plenty of information in the bubble window that pops up when you cursor over a marker. See the map here.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , ,

Hot Property #3: 1261 First Ave. SE

Hampton Court Apartments

This is actually two apartment buildings — 1261 and 1263 First Ave. SE. I’ve got them listed separately on the map, but the two buildings are next door to each other, they both have 18 units and they’re owned by the same guy.

Police were called to one of the two buildings 279 times in 2008. That’s more than five times a week.

The company that owns the buildings is called simply 1261-1263 LLC, which was incorporated by James D. Houghton. Houghton lists an Iowa City home address.

His property’s history is a litany of drug and assault charges, and other types of police blotter items.

I called Houghton’s home, and left a message.

The questions I might ask these landlords are beginning to coalesce in my mind, thanks in large part to Ray T’s suggestions. I would appreciate further suggestions. Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

– Why do police have to spend so much time at your property?
– Do you have an application process? What is it?
– Do you do background checks?
– Do you have rules on how many people live in each apartment?
– How often do you check on guests in your properties? What are your rules about guests?

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , ,

Hot Property #2: The Rose Apartments, 1407 Third Ave. SE

Rose Apartments, 1407 Third Ave. SE

Rose Apartments, 1407 Third Ave. SE

Not going in any particular order here, just starting with the low-hanging fruit and marking the map as I go.

This 12-unit apartment building at 1407 Third Ave. SE is just next door to Hot Property #1, the house at 1410 Bever Ave. SE. It’s owned by Steven Demeulenaere, who was beaten up outside the building last fall.

Police were called to the building 121 times in 2008.

I won’t get into much more detail here, because Gazette reporter Jeff Raasch profiled the Rose Apartments about a month ago.

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

Hot Property #1: 1410 Bever Ave. SE

1410 Bever Ave. SE

1410 Bever Ave. SE

This is the address that got 71 police calls in 2008.

It’s a white two-story house owned by Vinnie Huskey Properties LLC, a company incorporated under Kevin Bachus, with a home office in Solon.

The home is right next to the Rose Apartments and it’s supposed to be empty. The city’s housing code enforcement office has posted a big yellow placard on the front door that says the place is “unsafe” and “unsanitary” and should not be lived in. The date of the notice is Feb. 27, 2009.

So imagine my surprise when I’m standing on the front porch, writing this down, and I hear somebody coughing inside. (Sorry. I didn’t knock.) All the windows are blocked with blankets, so you can’t see anything inside, but the place is run-down and the yard is mostly bare dirt.

The street was empty, pretty much, except for an old guy with a big beard sitting on his porch a few houses down on the opposite side of the street. He pointed out that several homes on Bever Avenue there are empty.

A man was stabbed in the chest at 1410 Bever Ave. SE in early February. It was the site of a shootout in May 2006, and the site of various assaults and other problems over the years.

Check out the Top 100 map here. When I profile a property, I’m going to mark it red on the map to and link back to my blog. Zoom in to your neighborhood and check it out.

Also, leave a comment. I’m going to try to talk to as many owners and tenants as I can.

Update: Police checked this house this afternoon and didn’t find anything, after a neighbor called in that somebody might be in there. Police said that while nobody was in there, somebody could well have been earlier. I’ve called Mr. Bachus and left a message, but haven’t gotten a call back.

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