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Old Town: Residents react to plans to replace their dwellings

Rumor and innuendo have been swirling for weeks concerning the fate of apartments and town homes in the Park Avenue/Ninth Street corridor of Old Town.

A half dozen or so residents contacted me and said Laurel Realty Co. had issued a memo, dated April 4, that stated the company has "decided to partner with another entity, and our plans are to replace existing buildings in stages." The memo went on to say that the management company was "not sure when or where" the demolition or rebuilding would start. The directive closed by saying "this has been a very emotional and difficult decision, but a necessary one."

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A few of the residents, who not to be identified, expressed a variety of concerns about their fate and feared that the new housing would be more expensive. One long-time occupant, who has lived in the development more than 20 years, said she understood that the new apartments were to be two-bedroom residences, and rent would start at $1,100 per month, which was more than she could afford. She said reasonable rent is why she had stayed so long.

Candy DiPietro, of Laurel Realty Co., said the decision to essentially redesign and rebuild new apartments on the property was reached about five years ago, by her mother, the late Peggy Anderson, who owned the company but died during the long process of getting drawings and permits. Candy said the family decided to press on with the plans.

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"This is a business decision" Candy said. "We are losing money every month. Utilities are included in the rent and we just can not continue to take losses."

She said that by law, they would have to give the tenants 30 days notice, adding "I'd love to be able to give 60 days or more."

Montgomery Street resident Barbara Scott had been pondering having her yard landscaped. After getting a bid for the redesign, and before work actually began, she decided the time was right to take her metal detector out to the lawn to see what, if anything, was buried out there.

Metal detector in hand, and assisted by friend David Simpson, the duo stumbled on what seem to be iron tools. While none of the finds can be positively identified, they look as though they may have been used by craftsman of earlier era. To me, the most interesting item was what appeared to be a gear wheel.

Cleaning the discovered pieces is a task unto itself. There is some thought that a blacksmith may have operated on the property, which is between Laurel Elementary and the former Wee Wash It laundry and dry cleaner on the corner of Sixth and Montgomery streets.

If any readers have information about the property and what may have existed there, drop me an email.

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