An out-of-state buyer has purchased Essex Village — a beleaguered housing complex in Henrico County that has faced sharp scrutiny for its conditions — and rebranded it using the name of famous Richmonder Maggie L. Walker.
Maggie Lena Walker Apartments LLC of Maryland bought the 17-acre property that’s home to the subsidized-housing community in eastern Henrico for $42.5 million from Essex VA Investors LLC. The deal closed on Oct. 31, according to a county record.
According to the leasing office, the apartment community, which was built in 1982, has been rebranded as Maggie L. Walker Apartments and is now being managed by a company called Capreit. Essex Village signage was still up Wednesday.
Maggie Walker was the first black woman to charter a bank in the United States and has been memorialized with a statue near her home in Jackson Ward.
Maggie Lena Walker Apartments LLC is an entity tied to Ernst Valery Investments Corp., a real estate investment firm based out of Baltimore. The company did not return requests for comment. According to its website, Ernst Valery Investments Corp. has invested in properties in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
In addition to taking over the property, the new owners received approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take over the Housing Assistance Payment Contract held by the previous owners. The contract provides the terms on which HUD provides a rental subsidy for tenants at Maggie L. Walker Apartments.
Residents at the 496-unit Maggie L. Walker Apartments pay rents that are up to 30 percent of their income and then a HUD subsidy covers the rest. In October, a rent increase proposed by Essex VA Investors went into effect but likely just means HUD is paying more of a subsidy on the property.
“There was an acknowledgement that work was being done on the property,” said Lisa Wolfe, a spokeswoman for HUD.
The work done on Maggie L. Walker Apartments came in the wake of heightened scrutiny of building conditions on the property. Problems at the apartments have included stairs in disrepair, mice, leaking water heaters, raw sewage bubbling up to the surface of manhole covers, and drains backing up in ground-level apartments. A pregnant woman had to go to the hospital after she fell from her second-floor balcony when the railing gave way.
Henrico officials took the previous owners to court over charges related to building violations. The charges were dismissed in light of improvements that had been made on the property.
In January, the previous owners failed a HUD inspection. They passed an Aug. 21 HUD inspection but were told to make corrective actions on the property within 90 days. Issues identified in August included walls with holes and cracks, missing and damaged floor tiles, leaking faucets, mold and mildew, a roach infestation, and peeling paint. According to Wolfe, the new owners have agreed to complete the work agreed to by the previous owners.
A resident who wanted to remain anonymous said that Ernst Valery, the founder and president of Ernst Valery Investments Corp., held a meeting with tenants in October to go over renovations planned for Maggie L. Walker Apartments.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” the resident said.