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New Leland Point Owners Aiming to Change Public Perception

Residents in more than 200 units have been removed so far, and renovations are under way.

A Changing of the Guard

If crime is not curtailed at , it certainly won’t be from a lack of trying. The approximately 1,100-unit apartment complex in south —sharing its name with nearby Leland Park—changed ownership in June 2011, and there’s a new sheriff in town. 

No, the haven’t stopped monitoring the place—there’s still a police substation at Leland Point—but District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. announced in June 2011 that . Zappala charged Leland Point’s former owners—Leland Point Holdings LLC—with one count of public nuisance in June 2010.

“The people that were living there (at Leland Point) were treated very badly,” Zappala said in June 2011, “and you are entitled, as a matter of law, to certain promises when you have a lease arrangement with a landlord: They’re called warranties of habitability. The short version (of that) is safe and decent housing, and they received neither.”

There have been no such complaints from the district attorney’s office since Leland Point’s new ownership—Apollo Property Management LLC—bought the complex. In fact, there have hardly been any complaints at all, unless you count ones surely made by residents who have been told to leave. 

Apollo Property’s Marketing Manager Stephanie Sturzinger said that her company has opted not to renew leases for people in more than 200 units at Leland Point since taking over. In fact, some residents have altogether been told to leave mid-lease.

“If it’s not a good, quality resident, we’re definitely making changes,” Sturzinger said on Friday. “We’ve really cleaned house here.”

Apollo has been using background checks provided by the company CoreLogic’s SafeRent program to determine who its Leland Point tenants should be. Sturzinger explained that the background checks are used in a formula that factors in variables such as tenants’ credit and criminal histories. Apollo will reject or even remove tenants with poor credit scores and/or lengthy criminal reports.

In addition, Apollo is phasing out the practice of renting at Leland Point to those who rely on Section 8 vouchers, or Low-Income Housing Assistance, to pay for their rents. The Cleveland area-based property management company’s new Leland Point lease applicants must have monthly incomes that are at least three-and-half times the cost of those applicants’ proposed monthly rents.

“We want to make sure that everyone is financially stable to make all of their payments (including rent),” Sturzinger said. “Sometimes, (residents) aren’t thinking of car payments, credit card payments, those types of things.”

Apollo is not removing existing low-income residents at Leland Point, though. Sturzinger said that Section 8 or other low-income residents have been grandfathered in, and they will not be removed unless they fail CoreLogic background checks.

Less than 5 percent of current Leland residents are using Section 8 vouchers, Sturzinger said.

Renovations, Upgrades and the Leland Point Clubhouse

Sturzinger said that Apollo is seeking “a different kind of resident” at Leland Point in order to cover the costs of upgrades and full renovations at the complex. Around 600 units will be renovated or have recently been renovated in order to change the layout of those units—mostly enhancements to the kitchen and living areas but also to ceiling fixtures. The remainder of Leland Point’s units will be upgraded or have recently been upgraded in some way with new carpeting, paint, stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, cabinets and kitchen floors. The fully renovated units will also have those new amenities.

Some of the upgrades, though—not the new, full renovations—were completed as long ago as 10 years, management said. 

Apollo’s full renovations, which often include lowered breakfast counters—are being called “extreme” units, and the minimally upgraded units are being called “basics.” The “basic” units are cheaper than the “extremes.”

Still, an overall increase in prices will cause some Leland residents to have to search for new housing. Apollo cannot disrupt existing rental agreements and prices, but once those agreements expire—most residents from previous ownership are in a 12-month lease—the new, higher prices will take effect.

New prices (all monthly) are as follows:

  • Studio (around 420 square feet) - $450
  • One-bedroom junior (around 525 square feet) - $525
  • One-bedroom basic (530-630 square feet) - $575
  • One-bedroom extreme (530-630 square feet) - $680
  • Two-bedroom basic (690-770 square feet) - $625
  • Two-bedroom extreme (690-770 square feet) - $725
  • Townhome basic (around 765 square feet) - $750
  • Townhome extreme (around 765 square feet) - $850
  • Three-bedroom basic (around 765 square feet) - $700
  • Three-bedroom extreme (around 765 square feet) - $800

Management is also building a new Leland Point Clubhouse—currently being used as Apollo office space—for residents that will include a party room, computers, printers, pool tables, TVs, a cooking area, a fitness center and more. The fitness center will feature treadmills, stationary bikes, yoga space, a universal gym and other exercise equipment. 

The clubhouse already has a patio area that overlooks the Leland swimming pool—open to tenants in the summer.

The clubhouse is not nearly completed yet, though—it will be at least another 60 days for some part of it to be finished—and Leland Point’s existing fitness center has been removed in the interim, an approach that some residents have had issues with.

Alex McAtee, a player with the Pittsburgh Passion women’s football team who lives in one of Leland Point’s yet-to-be-altered units, said that finding a place to exercise has been especially tough. McAtee relies on public transportation to get around and used to exercise at Leland’s old fitness center, which was well within walking distance of her apartment.

Mark Vierheller, a Peters Township resident and Apollo’s project manager for Leland Point, said that the wait for a new clubhouse will be worth it.

“It will be a resident center that will bring people into the heart of the community,” Vierheller said on Friday, “the hub that everyone comes to to enjoy the fitness center, the community rooms to watch a football game on Sunday. Those are all included in the price of rent.” 

Tenants will also be allowed to bring guests into the clubhouse.

“Nobody else (other rental companies) around here (Pittsburgh’s South Hills area) will be able to compare to it,” Vierheller said. “It’s really going to get our residents something that no one else has.”

Sturzinger said that residents in non-altered units, like McAtee, are neither being forced to leave nor relocated to another unit to allow for renovation or upgrades.

“As a lease expires, and if resident moves out, we would then go in to do the renovation work,” Sturzinger said. “However, if a resident would like to move to a renovated apartment home, we are more than happy to work with them on making this transition as their current lease expires.”

Once a resident’s lease expires, that resident is welcome to stay at Leland Point, Sturzinger said, but she or he would have to pay Apollo’s increased rental rate and would have to continue to pass background checks.

“If you’ve been a good resident, you abide by the rules, you don’t bring a negative element to the community, there’s no reason for you to go,” Vierheller said.

Police at Leland Point 

“For the last 10 years at least, we have spent an extraordinary amount of police resources and time (at Leland Point),” said Baldwin police Chief Michael Scott on Jan. 5, 2011, three days after in Leland’s 5400 block of Youngridge Drive.

Scott said then that approximately 10 percent of Baldwin Borough’s population resides at Leland Point but that approximately 65 percent of the borough’s police calls come from there.

On Saturday, Baldwin Council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk, who was President of the council when Apollo became Leland’s new owners, talked about how that has changed.

“Apollo management is actively doing background checks before renting units out, which, along with the work of our police department, has helped to bring the incidents of crime down 25 percent over the previous year,” Stelmasczyk said. “We have also seen a reduction in the number of fire calls.

“We (borough officials) have met with them (Apollo management), and they have made about $4 million in improvements to the complex. They work well with our borough manager (John Barrett) and our police department.” 

Still, Sturzinger and Vierheller are aware of some South Hills residents’ perceptions of Leland Point. They’ve heard all of the degrading nicknames for the complex but remain convinced that they are on the right track to changing those perceptions.

“People can’t believe the difference that six months have made,” Vierheller said. “My cousin lives in Bethel (Park), and his business is here in Baldwin. And he used to say to me, ‘God, that place is a disaster.’ But (he) hadn’t been over here in years. 

“I want Pittsburghers to stop thinking back five years ago and come back and actually look at it … You can actually see the improvements. We’re making changes where you can actually see the differences.

“We’re reenergizing a big piece of Baldwin.”

Sturzinger said that Apollo has remained relatively quiet to media and the general public about its background checks, increased rental costs and renovations—until now.

“We didn’t say anything for the first seven months because we were busy working, renovating, pulling everything together,” she said. “Now, we’re ready to show everyone all of the hard work that we’ve been doing and what we have planned for the future.”

Vierheller and Sturzinger said that management is mulling a name change to Leland Point, but there are no plans yet for that.

Living in South Baldwin

Vierheller, as a South Hills resident, speaks glowingly about the housing opportunity that Leland Point could be for Pittsburgh-area residents, pointing to nearby shopping and public transportation to downtown Pittsburgh.

, a discount grocery store, —less than a 10-minute walk from the Leland Point Clubhouse. 

“I love seeing any new business opening,” Vierheller said. “I like to see any reinvestment in the community. I think it is fantastic for our residents to have a choice for stores. I think it’s great for Baldwin.”

has a location in south Baldwin, as well. In fact, Foodland is an even shorter walk from the clubhouse.

Baldwin-Whitehall Patch contributor on Leland Point in October 2011 provided a history of Leland Point’s role in developing the South Hills.

“In the best of times, Leland Point was known as ‘Baldwin Court Apartments,’ McCloskey wrote in October. “In the 1960s and ’70s, it drew hundreds of residents to the South Hills who, otherwise, might never have considered living there.

“Many of the people who started their adult and professional lives in attractive, affordable Baldwin Court rental units went on to buy houses in Baldwin, , Pleasant Hills, Brentwood and Bethel Park—helping to build the South Hills solidly out to the Washington County line.

“Often, it was young, out-of-town engineering students at the University of Pittsburgh or Carnegie Mellon University who availed themselves of Baldwin Court’s value and settled there as they started good-paying jobs at U.S. Steel, Westinghouse-Bettis and Fisher Body.”

Coincidentally enough, Carnegie Mellon has invited representatives of Leland Point to an off-campus housing fair on Feb. 1.

Leland Point is roughly 11 miles from CMU’s campus and 8.5 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

“Location is the key to any real estate,” Vierheller said. “We have a phenomenal location to get anywhere in the city.”

Thoughts? Share them in the comments section below.

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Janet Vucich January 30, 2012 at 12:45 PM
This is one of those cases where the phrase "It's what's on the inside that counts" just doesn't cut it. Change our PERCEPTION? It is kind of difficult to look beyond the boarded up windows on many units and think, "Gosh. I'd just love to live there!" It is going to take years and much determination to shake images such as this to even remotely compare to what the neighborhood was back when it was "Baldwin Courts."
Roseann Vamos January 30, 2012 at 01:35 PM
I'm so happy to see the North Baldwin area getting good publicity! There is so much to offer in terms of real estate,convenience , affordability and shopping. Great Article!
Robert Edward Healy, III January 30, 2012 at 02:22 PM
South Baldwin here.
Cathy January 30, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I grew up in North Baldwin. Leland Point is not in North Baldwin. North Baldwin is over near Churchview Avenue and Willett Road. The people that robbed my neighbor live at Leland Point and still live there. Sounds like the new owner has good intentions. However, this area has been so bad for so long that it will be hard to change. It will also be very hard to change public perception about this neighborhood. I hope they really can clean up this area!
NB resident January 30, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Some ppl will never change their view if that place. But the fact is that they are trying. Who else is doing that with that kind of property. It's good for the people there and its good for the borough as a whole.
Bald win win win January 30, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I drive through Leland all the time and I do see lots of workers and lots of improvements being done. This is the first time that what the owners said would be done, has been done. Let's give them a chance. It took years to get this way I think we can give them a chance to clean the mess up. We need to encourage not discourage.
Rock Solid January 30, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Take it easy with your comments - when the boro and country gets finished robbing me, I'll be living in the hood.
Baldwin Borough Library February 01, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I am assuming the previous writer is referring to taxes. If the county and Boro don't collect taxes they cannot provide you with services like good roads and sewers, police and fire protection, parks and a library-l without those things the boro would be no different than the 'hood. Mary C
jumping doctor April 10, 2012 at 07:06 PM
improvements are great, but what about the undesirable tenants who are noisy and run water constantly to wash their clothes in the bath tubs,at all hours of the day and night. I pay to use the washer and dryers but now that we have to pay for water I am paying for their clothes to be washed. The office staff lies right to your face, office manager----WHAT A JOKE!!!!!
lena June 28, 2012 at 09:02 PM
How are they doing now (June 2012)? My first prop mgt experience (77-81) was with a "troubled" property, with deferred maintenance, problem tenants, high turnover (for good ones) - I took from about 50% occupancy to a looong wait-list(2&3 BRs), with high occupancy even in our 1BRs - and refinanced in 13M$ range. Tenants and owners were happier, tho' really clear, obvious turnaround took about 2.5-3 years at that property (by which time, had multiple site responsibility..then moved on to luxury condo owners assoc (prgm mgt/consulting)). Sounds like they've made some good starts here...hope that's the case.
Jak May 23, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Hell lealand point coz there management guys are really bad they don't feel about other people. They always mean... Stupid

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