Los Alamos Apartments fall into foreclosure

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By Carol A. Clark

The largest property foreclosure in the history of Los Alamos is underway.

The Los Alamos Apartments, with a foreclosure value of approximately $3 million, run east of the Bradbury Science Museum to 9th Street between Central Avenue and Iris Street, and includes two buildings immediately adjacent to museum park housed the Los Alamos National Laboratory student housing.

Assistant County Administrator Tony Mortillaro made the announcement during Tuesday’s county council meeting held at the Community Building. Mortillaro told the board that the county had been notified of the foreclosure by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), adding that the Bradbury Row development project intended for the property is probably not going to happen.

The foreclosed property is one of the highest density residential properties in Los Alamos with 132 units on some four acres of land. It’s owned by Los Alamos Apartments Inc. of which Kent Waterman owns 100 percent of the stock. He purchased the property in 1994 from a California man. The man had inherited the apartments from his father who owned them since 1965.

“They had become slums,” said Kent’s brother, Roger Waterman, during a meeting Tuesday.

The Waterman brothers own TRK Management, which has managed the Los Alamos Apartments since 1995.

“There was a motorcycle repair shop operating out of the apartments and all kinds of crazy things like that going on there,” he said. “It took us about a year to clean them up in terms of tenants not paying rent, residing there under no leases, then another year to secure the funding to remodel the apartments.”

The remodeling was completed in 1997, he said.

The Watermans have lived in Los Alamos since 1947 and have carried on the tradition started by their father, Robert Waterman, of building and managing properties throughout Los Alamos and White Rock. The Watermans own and manage many familiar landmarks such as Oppenheimer Place and the property housing the Bradbury Museum, which is leased by LANL. They also own the Hampton Inn in White Rock and developed Oppenheimer Place and Quemazon.

“The Los Alamos Apartments property was operating profitably until transitions forced on the Los Alamos National Laboratory had as expected impacts on the apartments,” Waterman said during the interview. “The property is currently running at about a 40 percent occupancy rate. We lost about 20 percent of our units rented to contractors a year ago last fall when the laboratory laid off several contractors. Then last year the laboratory discontinued their summer housing program, which affected another 59 units. Since last fall Los Alamos Apartments lowered rates by 15-20 percent, depending on lease term, but the market does not appear to have recovered.”

On May 30, HUD sent a foreclosure notification to the tenants living in the Los Alamos Apartments. In the letter, the agency urged tenants to complete an enclosed income survey by June 30. The survey results are meant to help HUD determine any assistance that may be available to the tenants at the time the property is sold, according to the letter.

“If HUD is not outbid at (the) foreclosure sale and acquires title to the property and the property is sold to a unit of local government, 10 percent of the units in the complex will be restricted for future occupancy by chronically homeless persons,” HUD states in the letter.

A chronically homeless person is defined by HUD as an unaccompanied, disabled individual, who has been on the street for more than one year or has four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.

HUD states that no tenant will be displaced as a result of the 10 percent homeless restriction but rather that the requirement will be met by filling vacant units.

Director of Property Disposition Ruth Pompa in HUD’s Fort Worth regional office said this morning that the property is scheduled to be auctioned off on the courthouse steps in August or, more likely, in September.

County Administrator Max Baker commented on the foreclosure following the council meeting Tuesday evening saying, “The county continues to struggle with a number of issues in our commercial sector and we are working proactively to bring about the changes in which the private sector can find more success.”

Questions regarding the foreclosure should be directed to HUD representative Debie Bolin at 888-805-8993.