Uptown Boca Faces Radon & Mold Concerns

West Boca News has learned that the new owner of Uptown Boca is working to address resident concerns that are a holdover from the original owner and builder.

Less than three weeks after Cortland took ownership, we were contacted by a few residents most of whom asked to remain anonymous. They told us that several residents found high radon levels and/or mold conditions in their apartments. One resident we spoke with complained of headaches.

Robert Navone sent us photos of mold in his apartment and said he has heard from 40 residents about mold and radon. Navone told me that he and his wife were sick from mold.

Mold on wall of Navone apartment

We reached out to Cortland and Managing Director Jonathan Denton called to discuss the situation with us. He agreed that there is a radon issue, that the company knew about the problem before they went through with the transaction, and that “quite a few” residents have expressed concerns. Cortland held two town hall meetings this week with residents to address those concerns, with roughly half of residents attending at least one of those meetings.

Denton told us this is a common problem in the apartment buildings they buy and they are already working on a plan to remediate the radon. Residents said they were told by Cortland that the radon is coming from the ground and Denton told us the same, and that every property they buy has some level of radon exposure.

We contacted Florida geologist David Wilshaw about the radon issue. He told us:

Palm Beach County in general is low Radon risk, but as with everything it depends! The real hot areas for Radon are the phosphate mining areas (explains why the phosphate mine effluent is radioactive). But shallow limestone deposits can produce Radon too.
Radon is heavier than air, so the big risk is basements. 5th floor, not much chance, unless it’s coming from the building materials (e.g. unsealed natural granite).

According to the EPA radon levels should be below 4 picocuries per liter. Denton told us residents have been using radon test kits from Amazon that are not as reliable as professional tests, reporting real-time numbers rather than averages over time.

However, we received radon test reports from Mark Wahl, a licensed radon inspector showing levels well over 4 picocuries per liter with one report over 10, and these were averaged over 48 hours. Residents told us the high radon levels are occurring on all levels up to the 5th floor.

Denton told us Cortland is carrying out a plan to remediate the radon. The previous owner had already installed a passive radon mitigation system. Cortland is moving to an active mitigation system with electrical fans in first floor units to exhaust air and prevent the radon from rising to units on upper floors. He expects this to resolve the issue within 3-4 months.

We asked specifically about whether the radon could be coming from building materials such as granite or concrete rather than from the ground. Denton said that was conceivable but hard to say.

Mr. Wahl told us that he found radon in several units and has several more tests in progress. He was confident that the radon is coming from building materials, likely aggregate that was mixed in with the concrete, and that active ventilation of the first floor units would not do anything to help the upper floors. Wahl did say active ventilation does resolve the issue if it is done correctly in every unit. He also said he saw passive mitigation systems in some of the apartments but could not confirm installations in all of them.

Residents also told us about mold issues in some apartments and in storage units and garage spaces.

Denton acknowledged those problems as well. He said most of the problems have been in storage units and garages but acknowledged there were a few in apartments. He attributed the mold issues in apartments to residents leaving patio doors or windows open which allows humidity to get in. He also said that mold in storage units and garages is harder to prevent because the spaces are not air conditioned.

A resident told us that Uptown Boca blamed some of the apartment mold on a resident not keeping the air conditioning set at 74 degrees or below. Denton told us it is a term of most leases that residents are to keep the AC at 78 degrees or below.

We spoke with one of the mold inspectors who asked to be kept anonymous, and did not want to speak in any depth, but said there “is definitely a problem there.”

Radon inspector Wahl, who is also a licensed mold assessor and owner of Waypoint Property Inspection East LLC, said he was surprised when he looked at the units that some of the closets did not have a/c registers which may help to prevent mold formation.

Residents also complained that Uptown Boca is not doing enough to address the issue for those who want to leave. Denton said they would allow any resident to leave without damaging their credit. Some residents feel this is not enough.

Regarding mold in storage units and garages we received one document showing that Uptown Boca refused to remediate mold in a resident’s storage room and garage because the resident had personal items that absorb moisture. That document included language from the lease agreement which specifically exempts management from responsibility for mold in storage units because they are not climate controlled. The document refusing to remediate was dated before Cortland acquired the property.

Denton maintained that it’s only a small number of residents who are unhappy and that 4 or 5 told management they are moving out. Uptown Boca has approximately 450 units.

Wahl confirmed this, describing a resident who was staying in a 4-bedroom unit despite having a high radon test result.

If any residents of Uptown Boca would like to provide us more information, we ask that you please e-mail us at warren@westbocanews.com.

 

A Stonebridge House Tour

Stonebridge clubhouse is on left, with golf course extending behind it. All photos copyright Warren Redlich 2016.
Stonebridge clubhouse is on left, with the recently revamped golf course extending behind it. All photos copyright Warren Redlich 2016.

Stonebridge Country Club is in the northwest corner of Boca Raton, on the west side of 441 north of Clint Moore. The entrance is across from the 441 entrance to The Oaks. The community has just under 400 single family homes. It’s a great community to live in, with a recently renovated golf course, top-notch tennis courts and fitness center, and a gorgeous clubhouse with great food.
This Friday we were invited to an event at the clubhouse put on by the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. PBSO Deputy John Ledford was the main speaker, and he talked about safety concerns and practices for real estate professsionals.
Deputy John Ledford
Deputy John Ledford

The clubhouse is a fairly large space easily holding an event with well over 200 people.
stonebridge-conference-room
There was even more space in the next room which had the breakfast buffet.
stonebridge-buffet
Stonebridge hired John Iannotti as the club’s general manager in 2014. We’ve heard he’s doing a great job, especially with the food. Many people went back for seconds.
The event was followed by a tour of open houses. There are currently 26 homes in Stonebridge on the market with prices ranging from below $200K up to $530K, with one 3-bedroom house currently listed at only $125K as an estate sale. The lowest prices are on Spyglass Way in the northeast corner of the community. There were 17 transactions in the past year from $170K to $500K.
10570 Harich Lane
10570 Harich Lane

10570 Harich Lane is on the market for $355,000. It has four bedrooms and three full baths in 3000 square feet. The house seemed to be in mostly good shape. The backyard has a pool and faces woods. There’s nothing behind it but empty land and the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge.
10570-harich-pool
The master bedroom has a nice slider looking out on the pool.
10570-harich-master
And the kitchen is in pretty good condition.
10570-harich-kitchen


10402-stonebridge
Next up is 10402 Stonebridge Boulevard, on the market for $349K. It has four bedrooms and three baths in 3250 square feet, along with a screened-in pool.
10402-stonebridge-pool
On the way to the last house we noticed a gorgeous home not on the market at 10361 Parkstone:
10361-parkstone-front
Across the street sits 10360 Parkstone, which has large trees blocking any attempt to get a good photo of the front of the house.

10360 Parkstone - kitchen
10360 Parkstone – kitchen

This house has four bedrooms and four baths in nearly 3500 square feet, and is listed for $460K. It did not feel as big as the numbers indicate and we didn’t find it staged in an appealing way, though the kitchen does look very nice.
10360-parkstone-kitchen
The screen doors in the backyard seemed to need work, but this was the only house that had a nice view.
10360-parkstone-view
Overall this last house appears to be overpriced relative to the other houses on the market.
Like many country clubs, prices are low because of the mandatory membership which gets expensive. It starts with over $50K you need to pay to join the club (another $15K if you join for golf) and in the ballpark of $25K per year in dues, association fees and other expenses.
You can get a great house in Stonebridge for a very good price. It comes with a pleasant lifestyle if you can afford the annual expense.
stonebridge-fountain

New Project in Logger's Run: Assisted Living

Update (July 2017): The Assisted Living Facility is now named Symphony at Boca Raton. We called and a recorded message said they expect to open in November of 2017.
ponderosa-cobblestone1
Many readers have asked us what’s going on on the northwest corner of Ponderosa and Cobblestone. The location is north of Packy’s and the Montessori school, and borders the Crystal Cove Estates subdivision.

We looked into this further and learned that a 168-bed assisted living facility is being built. This will be fantastic for the local seniors as we have been crying out for a senior assisted living facility for such a long time. The name of it is: Cobblestone Place Congregate Living Facility. This is a form of housing intended primarily for seniors who need substantial nursing or medical assistance but not 24-hour supervision. If Florida is too far for you, then you might be interested in checking out this caregiver agency to help you with you find someone to look after you in your old age. However, if Florida is the perfect location for you, then you can read more on the Florida Elder Affairs website.
From the plan document we reviewed, there will be 90 parking spaces initially as required, with additional space set aside for 74 spaces if necessary. Assisted living through lakeside assisted living providers or similar can be a huge benefit to those who want their independence but are in need of help from time to time, if this is what you are looking for and you are looking for a facility to accommodate you, and you are not living in this vicinity, then there is The Hermatige based in Virginia. The Hermitage of Northern Virginia assisted living facilities are located in Alexandria Virginia with memory and skilled nursing care too, this can be of a great aid to you and your living conditions, check your local area for facilities near you.
Addressing concerns we’ve heard from residents, the plan is attempting to minimize the impact on neighbors:

The site has been design[ed] to orient the 3-story portion of the building away from the adjacent residential properties to the north with additional setbacks and required buffers to minimize any impact. In addition, the service driveways and service areas are located in areas away from the adjacent residential properties and are placed towards the interior of the building which will provide screening from any perceived nuisances.

We’re not sure that description fits with the overhead map in the project document, which shows only a fifteen foot buffer between an internal circular driveway and the existing wall on the south side of Crystal Cove:
cobblestone-alf
To us it looks like a large building is being squeezed into a tight space.
Here are some “elevation” images of what the project should look like:
cobblestone-elevations2
cobblestone-elevations
This is an image showing data from the project:
cobblestone-data
The project is apparently owned by a Delaware corporation controlled by Capital Health Group and a man named Kenneth Assiran.
Here’s a 2014 interview with Mr. Assiran that mentions Boca Raton:

The transcript of that interview is available at Levin Associates.

Steve Monroe
Got you. Okay, good. Now, that’s a big deal for you to start the year. Do you have anything else like that in the pipeline for the rest of 2014?
Ken Assiran
Yes, we have other prospects we’re looking at. We’re looking at also developing a couple of deals. As a matter of fact, it’s very opportune that we’re in South Florida because we’ve bought some land in Fort Lauderdale and soon we are going to buy some land in Boca Raton and we’re going to build two large buildings in South Florida. We have a major commitment to South Florida or Florida.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but our management company now manages 75 buildings.
Steve Monroe
I knew it was up there; I didn’t know it was that high.
Ken Assiran
Yeah, we have quite a few. I believe we have eight in South Florida, so we’re really making a major investment in the Southeast.
Steve Monroe
Well, the Florida housing market is getting better, the Florida economy is getting better, so it’s probably not a bad place to be as long as too many people don’t follow you in the new development side.
Ken Assiran
Well, I think in South Florida, in Boca Raton and in Fort Lauderdale, it seems like in the markets here, there hasn’t been a lot of new product built here and I think the markets are ready for some new product.

The 32-page pdf from 2012 describing the project is below:
[gview file=”https://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/cobblestone-2012.pdf”]

Boca Dense: 211 Townhomes Coming to Boca Dunes

6-Unit Exterior - Traditional Boca Elevation - SD04.pdf
Developer K. Hovnanian has been approved to add 211 townhomes in the middle of the Boca Dunes community, replacing roughly 41 acres of golf course in the process. The new buildings will have about six units each, as depicted in the above image.
boca-dunes-townhomes
As you can see from the images above and below the new structures will be built right in the center of the current area.
P:349349.45LDS AutoCADSite Plan2014-09-23_PSBP&PMP_349.45 P
According to Hovnanian:

Homes will range in price from $314,000 – $380,000. Spacious 2-story townhome designs will offer living space between 1,600 and 2,500 square feet and 2 – 3 bedrooms. This new residential development is planned for 2016.

We’re not sure how realistic that pricing is. In the past year in Sandalfoot Cove (south of Palmetto Park between 441 and Boca Rio), only six townhomes sold for more than $200K around 1600 square feet. Closer to Boca Dunes the highest price in the past year was $161,000, about half of the low end in the proposed project. Condo sales in the community top out around $150K for 1600 square foot units.
real-estate-banner1
Looking at recently built townhomes in Boca and Delray, ones in the Centra community southeast of Military Trail and Yamato sell for more than this project. The lowest we see for that is $290K for a 1400 square foot 2-bedroom unit, but most were 3-bedrooms selling for over $350K. Four of them sold for over $400K with one over $490K.
In Delray Beach there are two similar developments. 1800 square foot units in Drexel Park are selling for around $300K while similar units in Gramercy Square are generally less with 1900 square footers as low as $255K. All of these have 3-bedrooms.