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Reservations at Riverview

Chip Ellis
Joe and Julia Neenan express concern over the way residents were notified that they could purchase their apartments at Riverview Terrace on Kanawha Boulevard. Julia Neenan said she moved in so she wouldn't have the responsibilities of home ownership.
Chip Ellis Riverview Terrace Apartments will be up for sale as condominiums soon. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston purchased the independent senior living facility in 1993 for $1.23 million. Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston has been overseeing its operations since then.
Chip Ellis Jackie Taylor, who has lived at Riverview Terrace Apartments for six years, says news that apartments would be converted into condominiums isn't something she wants to deal with during the holiday season.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Residents of the Riverview Terrace Apartments, on Kanawha Boulevard East in Charleston, were surprised to hear that the building's owner wants to turn the apartments in the independent senior living facility into condominiums.

"It was out of the blue," said Julia Neenan, who has lived at Riverview Terrace for four years with her husband, Joe.

"It gave us something to think about that we didn't really need at Christmas," Jackie Taylor, a Riverview Terrace resident for six years, said this week.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston bought the senior living facility in 1993 for $1.23 million. Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston has overseen its operations since then.

Sacred Heart Monsignor Edward Sadie said the church saw the purchase of the building as a way to encourage its aging parishioners to stay in Charleston, rather than moving to more Southern states.

While he has no intention of leaving Sacred Heart anytime soon, Sadie said, he wants some of the church's business to be settled should something happen. The church has several other projects it is implementing, including the remodeling of its grade school.

"I don't want to impose all this on my successor," Sadie said. "I just want to be prepared for the future, so if I drop dead tomorrow, he won't have more on his plate than he can handle."

Money from the condo purchases will finance the addition to Sacred Heart's elementary school, as well as "other things I'm still dreaming about," Sadie said. He would not go into detail about future projects, saying, "That's between me and God."

Riverview Terrace residents received a letter notifying them of the changes on Dec. 19. The letter says that contracts signed by current residents will be honored.

Current tenants pay a refundable deposit when they move in, as well as a monthly maintenance fee. Those who wish to purchase their apartments can use their deposit toward the purchase price, Sadie said.

Residents have questions about the situation but can only get answers by scheduling individual meetings with parish attorney Ralph Hoyer, they said.

"I feel they should have respectfully talked to us as a group and then maybe given us the letter after they talked to us," Julia Neenan said.

Anne Lane, a resident of two years, wants more details on prices and operations before she decides if she will buy. She added, though, that she believes Sadie has residents' best interests at heart.

"I think that, really, Father Sadie is looking out for us," Lane said. "He's getting older, and I think that he is giving us an opportunity to become owners so that we can sort of plan our future.  . . . I sort of feel like the church can't continue to be in the position that they're in."

Hoyer will begin meeting with tenants on Dec. 30. He would not divulge details of the condo costs or financing. Hoyer has arranged financing for those purchasing condos through City National Bank, according to the letter to residents.

"I would really like not to comment on it until I speak with the individual tenants first," Hoyer told the Gazette on Tuesday.

While they will not have to choose between purchasing their apartments and vacating them, Sadie thinks it's a good opportunity for the building's tenants.

"They'll own [the apartment], and they can pass it on to their heirs or their families," Sadie said. "They can remodel it if they want to."

However, the Neenans and Taylor said they moved in so they wouldn't have to deal with the same responsibilities homeowners do.

"We didn't want to own a house. We didn't want a mortgage," Julia Neenan said.

"If we turn these into condos, I then will have some responsibilities that I wanted to get rid of when I sold my house," Taylor said.

The deposit residents pay to move in is refunded to their estates when they pass away. The Neenans said theirs was about $55,000 for the smallest unit available.

"Our heirs don't have to worry about anything," Joe Neenan said.

Both of the Neenans have had to sell their parents' houses.

"That's a real event in your life when you have to clean out a house and sell it," Joe Neenan said.

Once half the units are purchased, a homeowners association will be formed to handle the upkeep of the building and its common areas, Sadie said.

That's another concern for Taylor and the Neenans. It isn't clear where the final say in decisions will lie between residents who continue to rent and those who decide to buy.

They also wonder if Sacred Heart plans to make upgrades to the building before residents take on the responsibility for its upkeep.

Sadie said the building's condition is "tiptop," but the Neemans and Taylor said they aren't sure about that. They said they just want more information before making they make decisions.

"We're just kind of waiting for the dust to settle and the air to clear, to see what will happen," Joe Neenan said.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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