by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor
A woman at the reins of the Woodland Trace Apartments in Platte City has restored hope in the lives of dozens of tenants trying to raise their families in what many tenants previously had described as subpar living conditions.
Indications are Robin Smith, property manager for Woodland Trace Apartments, has been able to harness a sense of community within just four months' time on the job. Where others before her have been unsuccessful, Smith is improving living conditions and fostering a strong sense of community.
In late June, a group of tenants aired their complaints before city officials at a Platte City Board of Aldermen meeting. Many residents of Woodland Trace Apartments, located along Bello Mondo Drive, expressed frustration over a lack of attention to critical maintenance issues affecting their health and safety.
Smith, who had been on the job for only five days at the time of that city council meeting, listened intently to the concerns raised by the tenants. Since that day, Smith has coordinated efforts to resolve maintenance issues one-by-one.
“Tenants are really happy,” said Smith. “As I told them (at the meeting) I am not the Band-Aid type.”
Upon Smith's request, the property owner, Cornerstone Property Investments LLC, has funded many necessary maintenance improvement projects. New roofs and guttering were among the first improvements to be made to the apartments' exterior. Inside, about one-third of the apartments received new heating and cooling units.
Half of the 108 units received new carpet and 35 percent of all units now have new appliances. She said new appliances will be provided to all units as funding becomes available.
Additionally, massive pot holes were filled and new asphalt was laid in parking area. The concrete sidewalk is being patched throughout the complex.
The security of residents was also improved with new door locks and key entryways. Surveillance cameras were also installed on the grounds.
The improvement most notable to children was the long-awaited opening of the outdoor pool. Despite several hot summers, the pool had remained closed. But within a matter of weeks, Smith arranged a staff to complete the necessary improvements and opened its gates.
“They had a blast out there,” said Smith enthusiastically about families using the pool.
Water-related issues, raised by a number of tenants, have also been addressed, said Smith. Upwards of $12,000 has been spent to redirect water that was flowing to undesired location, causing foundation issues.
Rooms that sustained water damage have been gutted and drainage issues fixed. Sixteen units are currently undergoing a major remodel and will be available for rent by Christmas.
Smith credits her locally-acquired team, comprised largely of off-duty law enforcement officers and firefighters, for completely turning the property around. She admits hiring off-duty public service employees has been a blessing.
“If anyone is doing anything they shouldn't be doing, they don't want to be here, said Smith. “Because guess who is coming into their unit to fix something?”
Now that a number of maintenance issues have been resolved, Smith plans to reopen the in-house workout facility and cinema room. She is also negotiating the purchase of playground equipment from a vacant school. A new basketball court with benches is also in the works.
As members of the community began witnessing all the improvements being made at Woodland Trace, dozens of Platte City residents were inspired to help out. Members from Bethel, The Calling Community Church, and Hillcrest Transitional Housing volunteered their time painting doorways and helping out in other ways to improve the appearance of the complex.
In the near future, Woodland Trace will have a newly renovated laundry room with 10 washers and dryers. Smith said the current laundry facilities are leased to another company, which has ignored deficient conditions.
“I have never seen things rigged the way they had them (in the laundry facilities),” said Smith. “They had two washer lines coming into one line. There is no way that would ever work. It is going to leak, it is going to backup and cause too much pressure on those valves.”
Due to the water leak, Smith has turned off running water to those laundry facilities.
“I have a moral obligation to these tenants,” said Smith. “If I know there is water coming from somewhere, then I have to get it stopped. Water and electric issues are my top priorities.”
Despite these maintenance improvements and beautification to the perimeter of the apartments, long-term residents are still paying the same rate.
When asked how she was able to get these results in such a short period of time, Smith said modestly that it is her philosophy to treat people how she would want to be treated.
“I just ask people to take pride in their residence,” she added. “I love the tenants here. They know I am going to get the job done right.”