Tenants pushed out for neighborhood improvement

Posted at 11:36 PM, Mar 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 23:36:18-04

A multi-million dollar revitalization project could bring new life to one neighborhood in West Palm Beach, but tenants who live there now say it's bringing them stress and fear as they're forced to scramble to find a new place to live.

The Community Redevelopment Agency or CRA of West Palm Beach has agreed to buy seven properties on the city's north side as part of a revitalization project.

The Sunset Lounge at 609 8th Street is the center piece of the $2,400,000 deal and is slated for renovation.

There's also some empty lots and apartment buildings that surround the Sunset which are part of the deal and are slated for demolition.

"I'm scared, very scared" said Lisa Brown, one of the tenants still living at 800 Henrietta Avenue - one of the seven properties included in the purchase.

"When did you get this notice?" asked NewsChannel 5's Jared Werksma. "I got this notice maybe, almost two weeks ago," Brown said. A 15 day notice informed her she has to be out by the end of March.

Upstairs in another apartment, Noesha Wright is trying to figure out what to do as well.

"I just been, you know, raised in that apartment since I was about four years old," Wright said. For most of that time she's lived there with her mother until she died of cancer just last month. Now Wright is left with two young children of her own, no help and no idea what she's going to do.

"We got a 15 day notice. That's not enough time to do anything" Wright said.

City leaders say there was an "understanding" with the property owner, Joel Kaminester, that tenants would have 90 days notice to move.

Kaminester was out of town but we were able to get him on the phone to ask about the "understanding."

"That was never communicated to me. My tenants are my responsibility and all of them are on month to month leases. I was gracious enough to allow my tenants not to pay March rent so they could save money to move out," Kaminester said.

But money is not the only problem.

"I've been looking. You get what I'm saying? I've been looking, it's just so hard to find somewhere to move," Wright said.

"I have nowhere to go. I have no family, nothing. I have my brother to take care of, I'm just 23, I have nothing," said Brown.

The purchase of the Sunset Lounge and its six affiliated properties is scheduled to finalize in the last week of April, 2016. The 44-page purchase agreement says all tenants must be out before the City of West Palm Beach takes possession. The notice tenants received from the property owner says the eviction process will begin if they're not out by March 31.