INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Indian River County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to demolish the Gifford Gardens Apartments saying it was a blight on the community and created unsafe conditions for law enforcement.
The nearly 50-year old complex of one-, two- and three-family apartments was once a thriving spot for Gifford residents, but over the years has become a haven for the homeless, drug users and prostitutes. The county has been negotiating with an out-of-state bank which currently owns the foreclosed property, but have been unable to get the institution to even provide basic measures to board up and fence the property.
“With property comes responsibility,” said Commissioner Bob Solari. “It is clearly a public safety hazard. One of my minimal standards is if times got hard would (wife) Jackie and I live there and there is no way. I would never let my wife stay in one of those homes alone.”
Environmental Health Specialist Julianne Price said the Gifford Gardens had been in downward spiral to the point that the only solution was to remove the six-building, 55-unit shell of a complex.
“Lots of agencies have worked on this for many, many years,” she told the Commissioners. “We kept hoping someone would fix it up. However, the property kept turning over and the new owners would come and realize they couldn’t fix the major plumbing and electrical problems. The final solution is to get this demolished and get this over with.”
The last tenants at the property were removed in July and thieves have come in and taken almost anything that could be construed as having some sort of scrap value.
“That property has been neglected over 30 or 40 years,” said Freddie Woolfolk. “The Reverend Harold Brown used to keep it in a pristine condition, but when he passed away, the pride in the facility passed away too.”
Gifford Gardens is currently owned by City National Bank in Los Angeles, which obtained the mortgage when it purchased a failed bank from the FDIC. The county estimates it will cost $178,129 to demolish the buildings and has ordered the county attorney to put a lien on the property to recoup those costs.
“It is clear the bank is only interested in its financial interest and nothing else,” Solari said.