Boarded-up, crumbling buildings and scraggly grounds create an impression that the Ashley Shores apartment complex has been abandoned.
But it is home to more than 100 tenants, if only until July. A terse statement in mailboxes that also was placed on doors said leases were canceled and residents had until midnight on June 30 to get out.
"This is messed up. This is crazy," said Sylvester Fludd, who has lived there for 20 years.
Deposits, utilities and all the other details that go into moving suddenly loomed large. And the kids were out of school for the summer.
"That's too much to deal with at one time," said Cedric Curry.
Apparently, a developer has eyes on the Azalea Avenue riverfront property. Its current market value is $3.5 million.
"Some commercial people are interested in it and the owner wanted to sell, so that's the reason they're giving notice," said City Councilman Bob King. "What they put in there will certainly be an improvement over what they have now."
The property owner, Frank Ritter, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
While no plans for Ashley Shores have been filed with the city, residents there are being uprooted at a time when housing options for those with low incomes are limited at best - thousands of applicants are awaiting rent subsidies under the federal Section 8 program, and no names are being added to the waiting lists in Charleston and North Charleston.
According to police and city health officials, the 50-year-old Ashley Shores complex is more than an eyesore - it's dangerous.
"We're not upset about it because we had so many police calls. It's something we really need to clean up," said King, who is chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee.
Since January 2013, police have been called to the complex 36 times, including 11 incidents involving weapons. In January, a man was charged with two counts of attempted murder as a result of a drive-by shooting at Ashley Shores. And, in 2005, two men were gunned down at Ashley Shores.
Residents said outsiders are responsible for the violence.
The city also reported more than 300 incidents related to health and sanitation problems at Ashley Shores since 2008. "The condition of the housing, it's deplorable," said City Councilman Michael Brown, who represents the district in which Ashley Shores is located.
Brown said there are a lot of people working on behalf of the tenants to help them find housing and the hope is that, ultimately, this leads to better living conditions for them. "It's difficult. My heart goes out to them," he said.
Herman Richardson, who lives on disability payments since suffering a stroke and pays $300 a month for a three-bedroom apartment at Ashley Shores, said he would have preferred to remain there.
"The AC and everything works," he said.
Richardson has found another place to live in the Russelldale neighborhood but was upset at the short notice tenants received.
"They should have let us know something two months ago," he said.
A representative of the Charleston County Human Services Commission met with some of the residents to explain programs offering assistance with utility bills and rent. A commission spokesman could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Resident Martha Bailey said the situation is similar to what happened in Trailwood, a mobile home park where more than 100 residents, including her father, were forced out as their month-to-month leases were terminated.
"Everybody is just stressed out," she said.
Many residents said they were still worried about what they will do.
"There's a lot of us that don't have a place to go," said Alena Huggins.
A new owner will be subject to more stringent development regulations, as well as City Council oversight, King said.
King said that he is sympathetic to the plight of the residents, and the city will try to help them if it can.
The city asked Ritter to extend the leases to July 31 for renters who are current on their payments, said city spokesman Ryan Johnson.
Councilman Todd Olds said it was obvious that the property was being sold. Although he had no specifics on the deal, he said it was unfortunate for the residents.
"But I can't control a developer and the selling of property," he said.
Leasing agent Ken Morris said about half of the tenants are "under eviction" because they did not paid rent in May.
"I've told everybody to work with them and try to get them a place unless they are under eviction, and then there's nothing I can do," Morris said.
Morris said he understands why tenants are unhappy about the situation, but no laws are being broken.
Residents, whose leases are all month-to-month, said the eviction notices set off some of the tenants and police were called to deal with the protest. However, Morris and police denied that officers were called or were at the complex because of the evictions.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.
Residents at Ashley Shores on Azalea Avenue, a crime-ridden and crumbling apartment complex in North Charleston, have been given eviction notices by the leasing agent for the owner, who is reportedly in the process of selling the property.×
Residents at Ashley Shores on Azalea Avenue have been told they have until end of month to get out. The leasing agent says he’s just following orders of owner, Frank Ritter.×