MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If the east tower elevator at Serenity Towers is not repaired by the end of the day, then those “at risk” must be relocated either to a hotel or the third floor and below, a judge told the managers Tuesday.
Serenity Towers, a subsidized high-rise home for seniors on Highland, was also fined $1,000 for the air conditioning not fully working and $3,000 for the elevators.
There will be a status report Wednesday on the elevators. If it isn’t working they have to come back in person and if it’s working they have to let the judge know.
All elevators are supposed to be working by Oct. 13. The next court date Oct. 10 at 9 a.m.
Meanwhile, change could soon be on the way to relieve long-standing problems at Serenity Towers.
State Rep. G.A. Hardaway confirmed with the WREG Investigators that discussions are underway about a potential change regarding who’s in charge at the taxpayer-funded complex.
Serenity Towers is currently run by Ohio-based Millennia Housing Management. Its parent company, The Millennia Companies, is slated to finalize a purchase of the property along with a $95 million renovation at the senior high rise.
However, Millennia was forced to submit a new plan for the sale and renovation after Tennessee’s state housing agency recently pulled its financial support for the project.
Rep. Hardaway and Shelby County Tax Assessor Melvin Burgess recently launched an investigation into Serenity Towers.
Burgess told WREG his office visited the property and was finalizing its assessment.
Meanwhile, Rep. Hardaway confirmed with the WREG Investigators that he, Burgess and others are in talks with state and federal housing officials that could lead to a shakeup in who oversees the property.
“Serenity Towers’ sad, miserable, and deadly saga, must be resolved, ASAP in favor of safe, secure, and sanitary housing for the much beleaguered, mostly elderly, residents,” said Hardaway.
Hardaway explained there are several different scenarios that could take place. One would include removing Millennia “entirely” from its role, and another would include bringing in a partner to work with the company. Hardaway also said another option could include court action that would place the property in receivership and put someone else in charge to manage the facility.
“Our primary concern is to establish reliable protocols to address emergency management at Serenity Towers. The fastest path to an immediate short-term solution, may very well include a court-ordered receivership,” added Hardaway.
Attorneys for Serenity Towers are due back in Environmental Court Tuesday where Judge Patrick Dandridge has called on a Special Master to investigate and present findings about the property, including whether it should remain open.
The NewsChannel 3 Investigators have long exposed problems at Serenity. Seniors at the property have gone without working air conditioning, hot water, and operable elevators, off and on several times this year.
Over the weekend, some tenants reached out to WREG saying they were concerned about where to report problems after hearing about possible changes in management.
We reached out to Millennia to ask if there were any potential changes in ownership or management at the property and Millennia Companies Vice President Angelica Sinito responded, “No.”
We reached out to HUD and asked if there was a change in management or ownership underway or if it was possibly abating the contract. A spokesperson replied, “Millennia is still the approved Management Agent and HUD has not received any request to change the Agent. HUD currently is not abating the contract.”
As for the latest on the sale and renovations at Serenity, after the Tennessee Housing Development Agency pulled its commitment, HUD told WREG Millennia was scheduled to present a new renovation plan last week. That didn’t happen. The spokesperson added in its latest statement to NewsChannel 3, “A new renovation plan has not been received at this time.”
The spokesperson said Millennia indicated to HUD it was “crafting a new plan for the property” but HUD hasn’t received a date for when it might be submitted.
WREG will be in Environmental Court for Tuesday’s hearing and provide updates on air and online.