The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 28, 2013

Townhouse complex changes with times

Randy Griffith
rgriffith@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — The evolution of the former Arbutus Village Townhouses into Aspen Woods Townhouses addresses a growing demand for quality rental units, managing partner Karen Sroka said.

“We put better than half-a-million dollars back into the properties,” Sroka said. “I believe there is a market for a wide range of rentals in this town.”

Originally developed in 1971 by Sroka’s father, the late John E. Sroka, Richland Township’s Arbutus Village provided rent-subsidized homes for low-income families under federal Housing and Urban Development programs.

But as times changed, so did Arbutus Village, Sroka said. Arbutus Village Associates, the managing partnership that owns the complex, began upgrading vacant units several years ago. The modern apartments were then reintroduced as fair-market rental units.

“It took us a long time,” property manager Chris Ruane said. “We were in this transition for five years.”

As contracts for HUD subsidies ended, they were not renewed, Ruane explained.

But the changeover was designed to protect Arbutus Village’s existing residents, both managers stressed. The partnership group obtained rent discount vouchers through Johnstown Housing Authority that will allow all those who were still in subsidized units on Feb. 1 to remain in their homes.

“We worked tirelessly to make sure no one falls through the cracks,” Ruane said.

“We did not want to displace our good tenants who have been with us a long time,” Sroka said.

“We didn’t want to lose them.”

Potential renters have been impressed with the improvements at the new Aspen Woods. Changes include repaved parking lots, an expanded playground, central air conditioning, additional bathrooms and dishwashers.

“I think people are really pleasantly surprised with what we have here,” Sroka said. “We had an open house last spring and people were overwhelmed.”

Although other rental developments offer many of the same amenities, Ruane thinks Aspen Woods has an advantage.

“The one thing that we have that other (developments) don’t have is our maintenance staff,” Ruane said. “We really try to stay on top of things.”

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