After a years-long legal dispute over alleged code violations, the 13 Applewood Apartments buildings on Hillside Road and Hunter Circle have been demolished.
Brady Excavating and Demolition of Crab Orchard was working on removing the last apartment basement on West Hunter Circle on Monday. The basement walls are a foot thick, and Keith Brady of Brady Excavating and Demolition was using a trackhoe with a hammer attached to it to remove the concrete bunker-like walls.
The buildings themselves have already been torn down, and the debris has been hauled away.
Brady, who owns Brady Excavating and Demolition, said the next step will be grading. The site has to be leveled so that it can be mowed, won’t have holes, and will have “positive drainage.” Grading could take two to three days and could be done by next week, Brady said. Big trees on the perimeter and in the middle of the property will remain.
The property will then have to be seeded, and straw will be spread, Brady said. He said that could require about 200 to 250 bales of straw and about a week.
Demolition work started in late January. It followed years of court cases and codes enforcement battles between the City of Oak Ridge and the property owner, Knoxville attorney Joe Levitt. At least some of the buildings had previously been declared unfit for human occupation and use.
It’s not clear what effect the building demolitions might have on any pending legal battles between the city and Levitt. Oak Ridge Today last reported on the legal cases in July 2017, after a court case that once called for a $400,000 fine against Levitt was dismissed. In January, Oak Ridge Today reported that there were, at last check, still legal cases pending in Anderson County Chancery Court in Clinton. There were oral arguments in the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville in February in a case between Levitt and the city. And before that, the two sides had oral arguments in 2014 at the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
In hearings and interviews, Levitt and his employees have said they had worked to maintain the decades-old two-story buildings, which were often referred to as “eyesores,” and to make repairs. Levitt has accused the city of trying to drive poor people out of Oak Ridge. Some tenants had defended the apartments, saying rent was cheaper there than anywhere else, as low as a few hundred dollars per month. But the city has said they were simply trying to enforce existing building and property codes at Applewood Apartments, and the property needed to be repaired and maintained.
The last Applewood Apartments tenant moved out in October 2016. At that time, Levitt said he was 85 and had health problems, and he was trying to clean up his estate. Most of his estate will probably go to the University of Tennessee and nonprofit organizations, Levitt said then. It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday if that is still the plan, if UT wants the property, and if so, what it might do with it. As of Tuesday afternoon, the properties appeared to be still owned by Levitt, according to a quick review of state real estate assessment records available online.
Applewood Apartments are in the Highland View neighborhood, just north of Oak Ridge Turnpike in central Oak Ridge. There were six Applewood Apartments buildings inside the semi-circular Hunter Circle, four outside the semi-circle, and three more near the intersection of Hillside Road and Highland Avenue.
The current code violations disputes between Levitt and the city had been ongoing since about 2009. Levitt often represented himself in court hearings and before the Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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