New development not ‘ritzy’ for all

Shattered glass and worn furniture surround the building, a tan “Wescott Manor” sign hangs by the front door, and Jim Davis packs away the last of his possessions. The old makes way for the new.

Davis is one of the few remaining tenants in the run-down four-story apartment complex at 1521 W. Kilbourn Ave. that will soon be known as “The Ritz,” a 52-unit luxury studio living space for Marquette students.

Brook Investments Global LTD purchased the property from James Schulhof in February for $1.7 million. Renovations are now underway, and it should be ready for occupancy in late August.

In order for building repairs to be made, currents residents were asked to move out.

The building was occupied largely by low-income residents who leased their apartments on a month-to-month basis, said Fan Zhang, an employee of Brook Investments Global in Brookfield.

“Technically, when we purchased the building, since it’s privately owned, we could have asked the tenants to relocate whenever we wanted,” she said.

Santino “Sonny” Bando, an employee of Select Management LLC, was hired to serve move out notices and assist in relocating the tenants. As owner of Santino Group real estate development, Bando is also overseeing the building’s renovations.

On March 1, the building’s residents were told they had 28 days to move. Bando offered to help renters find new apartments and move free of charge, he said.

Davis is 66 years old and uses a wheelchair. He said he was angered and shocked upon receiving the move out notification.

“I’ve been here 21 years, never missed rent one time and you’re going to tell me I have to get out in 28 days?” he said. “You don’t just uproot somebody like that.”

After living in the building for more than two decades, Davis said locating a new residence and moving his clothing, furniture and other possessions would have been nearly impossible in such a short time.

He and nine other tenants sought the consultation of an attorney. After negotiating with Bando, the group was allowed to stay an additional 30 days.

With Bando’s help, several displaced residents were moved into an 18-unit apartment building at 2726 W. Clybourn Ave.

Bando said Select Management went “above and beyond” in its efforts to move the tenants. Rent was not charged for the months of March and April.

“By law, you would serve the 28-day notices and if anyone was left at month’s end, they would be served with an eviction notice,” Bando said.

With the end of April approaching, Davis and the other remaining residents are finishing moving out. Davis said he has found a new apartment nearby.

Though he said he is still irked about having to leave his home of 21 years, he said “The Ritz” development serves as another sign of the progress the Marquette neighborhood is making.

The new apartments will feature granite countertops and full carpeting. An internet café and lounge area will fill the lobby. Bando said prices will be competitive with surrounding “luxury” accommodations like the 2040 Lofts.

“It’s going to be like a luxury hotel,” he said.