Violations close Schoolhouse Apartments

EAST LIVERPOOL – The classrooms and hallways of the former Pleasant Heights School on Lisbon Street are quiet and empty for the first time in a decade, after an inspection turned up numerous violations of city ordinance.

The building ceased operation as a school sometime in the 1960s, according to most accounts, and stood empty for most of the intervening 30 years until local attorney Dominic Frank purchased it in 1995 and began an extensive renovation into the Schoolhouse Apartments.

Frank, who resides across the street, said he spent about $750,000 on the school’s renovation, saying, “Everything was state-of-the-art when it opened.”

He sold the building in 2002 but has watched its deterioration over the last 10 years as it changed hands several times.

“It’s a shame,” he said of the schoolhouse’s demise, recollecting how he diligently maintained the interior and even the grass when he owned the building.

In November 2011, a letter was sent by the city Planning Department to the owner at that time, Tracy Olsen of Richmond, Massachusetts, relating that an inspection showed seven violations that had to be remedied within 30 days.

It is unclear whether or not those violations were resolved, but in an Oct. 9 letter this year to Christopher Keivet, agent for the current owner, Foresite Realty Management LLC of Rosemont, Illinois, planning department inspector Tod Brooks outlined a lengthy list of infractions found during an inspection.

The list noted wet carpet, musty smells, mold, inoperable hall lights, no fire extinguisher, inoperable smoke detectors, bad wiring in a closet, lack of closet doors, no fresh air returns and other problems in one apartment, and a variety of other problems throughout the building.

Outside, the list noted falling brick and structural cracks in the brickwork.

The infractions were considered so serious that Keivet was ordered to immediately evict all tenants from the building, keeping it unoccupied until all infractions were corrected. He was given 30 days to correct the problems.

Keivet was also given the opportunity to ask for a hearing before the Board of Housing Appeals if not satisfied with the inspector’s findings.

Planning Director Bill Cowan said that, due to the manpower shortage in his office, inspections are generally complaint-originated, which was the case with the old school, with complaints received from tenants.

In an Oct. 16 message from Keivet, Brooks reported, he was advised the building is in foreclosure, so it wasn’t worth repairing, with evictions to begin. Information from the planning department did not include the number of tenants still residing in the school building but indicated it consists of 11 units.

By Nov. 26, the city water department reported the building empty while attempting to remove water meters.

A call to Keivet was not returned.