Lesley’s Mobile Home residents are gone, but their rundown units remain
RIVERDALE — The former residents of Lesley’s Mobile Home Park in Riverdale are long gone, forced out so the land can be redeveloped
But many of the units they occupied, some extremely dilapidated, remain, apparently to the chagrin of some residents and city officials. The units, most too old to be reused, are to be razed and removed. It’s just not clear when that will happen, though Mayor Braden Mitchell indicates the arrival of the machinery needed to complete the cleanup work is looming.
“I just found out (Friday) that they plan on starting to bring in the heavy equipment in the next week or two,” he said in a message Saturday to the Standard-Examiner.
Meantime, Mitchell and other city leaders have been getting an earful from residents who regard the fenced-off site an eyesore, according to Mike Eggett, the Riverdale community development director. “They’re getting bombarded,” Eggett said.
Reps from Wright Development Group, the Centerville-based developer that plans to convert the 5.5-acre site into a 152-unit apartment complex, didn’t immediately respond to a query seeking comment. City officials, though, are offering assurances that action will be forthcoming, sooner rather than later.
“We’re close, is my understanding,” Eggett said. Complications related to dealing with the aging, abandoned units at the site have slowed things, he said.
Mitchell noted that Wright has the necessary city approvals to move forward with construction. “The site has become quite an eyesore, and I know many residents including myself are very anxious to see it cleaned up,” he said.
Plans to redevelop Lesley’s, located at 671 W. 4400 South in the shadow of the Riverdale Road crossing over the Weber River, publicly emerged in the spring of 2021. Controversy ensued as some tenants decried the loss of the low-cost housing option and what they saw as a focus on development rather than the lives of the low-income residents of the park.
By the end of last May, however, the mobile home park, with space for 55 units, had been vacated. Then on Aug. 1, the Riverdale City Council approved the site plan for the proposed new five-building apartment complex — called Riverside Flats Apartments — allowing redevelopment efforts to proceed.
Along the way, the conditions of the park deteriorated as residents left, some abandoning their units. Squatters moved in, according to former residents, and scavengers started taking scrap metal and other materials of potential value.
After May 31, when the last tenants departed, the developer fenced off the site to prevent outsiders from being able to access it, according to Mitchell. “It’s hard to get in there now,” Eggett said.
The rundown units are still visible, though, some boarded up, some with wide open doors and windows.
A sign on the door to the office of the mobile home park sitting north of Lesley’s, Riverside Village, testifies to the apparent exasperation some feel toward the neighboring parcel. The message exhorts Riverside Village residents to keep their yards clean. “We don’t want to be like across the street,” it continues.
Similarly, Mitchell said he has received questions from the public about the site and he has done what he can to keep residents informed. He expressed his worries about the site at the Aug. 1 Riverdale City Council meeting.
He told a Wright Development Group representative “about the amount of public concern and complaints he had received and asked that some progress be made quickly,” read the minutes from the meeting. The Wright Development official “reported the partners wanted to have an approved site plan before spending the money on demolition.”
Three key factors have figured in cleanup timing, according to Eggett and Mitchell.
Utility connections to all the units have to be severed before demolition can proceed. Moreover, units left behind by their former tenants have to be legally declared abandoned so Wright Development officials can raze them. Finally, public health considerations, like the potential presence of asbestos in some of the materials in some of the units, necessitates careful planning. Demolition teams can’t just go in and start razing the old units willy-nilly.
As Mitchell describes it, progress is occurring, with the remaining sticking point being disconnection of utilities.
“They finished removing the gas meters and gas lines about two weeks ago. The city water line was capped this week and I believe the sewer was capped (Friday),” he said Saturday. The “last big hurdle” before cleanup work begins in earnest, he said, is disconnecting the power source to the large billboard that sits in the park, advertising to passing motorists on Riverdale Road.
Aside from the land where much of Lesley’s sat, the new apartment complex footprint includes land abutting the mobile home park site to the west, including the former Carey’s Cycle Shop, which is also to be demolished.