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Philly apartment makeover = workers fired + higher rents

At Versailles, Leo Addimando's Alterra farms out jobs, preps upgrade

Developer Leo Addimando's Alterra Property Group, which owns apartments in Center City and Manayunk, has big changes planned for the 104-unit Versailles apartments at 1530 Locust St., which it acquired and began running last week. Alterra replaces Carlyle Property Management.

"That building is a jewel. It needs a facelift. We are going to be investing in capital improvements, starting sometime in 2015. It will be done slowly," Addimando told me.

That means higher rents, which Philadelphia apartment-dwellers have gotten used to lately. "When you invest in a building, part of the plan is to raise the rents," Addimando said. He plans to keep the units large - for "young families and empty nesters," he said - and promised "nobody will be forced out. We intend to honor the leases."

But for the building's staff, it's different. "Ten workers - doormen, maintenance, housekeepers, porters - were brought in and fired immediately, just a week before Christmas," said Julie Blust, spokesperson for SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents the Versailles workers. "One doorman has been there 27 years."

The union has handed leaflets to Christmas shoppers calling on the company to rehire the veteran staff. Blust says they have received "a great deal of sympathy from the tenants."

Addimando says he paid the workers 90 days severance "in an effort to ease the transition." He says his company followed the law, "consistent with our business model, in that all security/front door attendants and cleaning work in our buildings is contracted out to reputable third parties." The Versailles staff had worked for the building managers. More in my Philadelphia Inquirer column here.