Anderson apartments rescued by new owner-WEB ONLY


A 132-unit apartment complex in Anderson that became mired in an alleged $225 million Ponzi scheme last year has a new owner.

Bloomfield, Ind.-based Renewing Properties LLC has purchased the Hilltop Apartments at 4529 Columbus Ave. for a “little below $2 million,” said George Tikijian of Tikijian Associates, which brokered the deal.

The complex fell into receivership in August, the same month that two principals from the former ownership group, Chicago-based private equity firm WexTrust Capital LLC, were arrested on federal fraud charges.

Yet Tikjian said Hilltop began to struggle even before the Securities and Exchange Commission levied its charges against the principals.

“This had problems before their problems,” he said.

The property, made up of two- and three-bedroom apartments and similarly sized townhomes, fell into disrepair after it changed hands numerous times over the past two decades, Tikijian said.

Everything from the gutters to the outdoor swimming pool now needs attention, said Ethan D. Fernhaber, the principal of Renewing Properties.

“The amount of deferred maintenance is just mind blowing,” he said. “The property just needs somebody to love it.”

Fernhaber is hoping to do just that by spending $600,000 to $700,000 on new doors, windows, pavement, paint and other amenities that are being considered, such as satellite television and a surveillance system.

The property, now called Stonebrook Townhomes & Apartments, is about 70 percent occupied; Fernhaber says he hopes the renovations will boost that figure to at least 90 percent.

Renewing Properties mainly focuses on buying and rehabbing dilapidated housing throughout the state, he said. This year, the firm expects to buy and spruce up about 50 single-family homes, the same amount as last year.

But, as the market shifts, Fernhaber said he is increasingly looking to multi-family units. He has purchased apartment buildings in the past, but the Hilltop acquisition represents his largest to date, he said.

“We see our business focus shifting from houses to apartment complexes with the current economic state,” he said.

Cincinnati-based First Financial Bancorp financed the purchase and locally based Buckingham Cos. managed the property while it was in receivership.

Many of the Buckingham employees who were involved with the complex have been hired to work for the new owner, which will manage the complex rather than hiring a contract manager, Fernhaber said.

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