Killing Creekside

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The DICK OF DICKINSON forced us to sue his city to get to the truth about the controversial condemnation of the low-income Creekside apartment complex.

Sure, cities have a right to want to redevelop older property when they can, but e-mails prove the city hatched a secret plan to close the place even before giving owners a chance to fix the only apartments some folks could afford.

Dickinson taxpayers could end up paying for it!

It’s nearly two in the morning on a school night in April and Dickinson’s city manager Theo Melancon is finishing a long night of drinking.

Parked at a table outside the 517 sports bar on the Gulf Freeway.

We don’t know who picked up the tab here, but we do know who paid for the booze at Melancon’s earlier stop that night.

Dickinson taxpayers did.

Here he is all dressed up for work at Gator’s Bar and Grill with another city official, Dickinson economic boss Cortland Holman.

From text messages we know they are buddies.

The receipt from that night calls it council community relations, an EDC meeting with an unnamed developer.

It also details what amounts to the equivalent of 10 regular sized beers and 7 glasses of whiskey over three hours.

Other receipts from Melancon to city taxpayers we now have don’t often detail what he drank and how much. Some receipts are even missing, but he still gets reimbursed every time he asks. 

The week before the same trio ran up a 345-dollar tab doing the people’s business.

Who is the developer Melancon is wining and dining? James’s Beers of the architecture firm Hoefer Welker.

The Dallas Business Journal says Beers is on the move.

And his moves apparently include carte blanche from Dickinson City Hall. To try to design and help sell Dickinson’s future.

But here is something weird, the city is also telling developers who want to do business in town, to hire this guy too. That’s a major conflict.

Before they hit the bars on April 19th, we see Beers in a car with the EDC director Holman in the Gator’s parking lot.

A small drone is put on the roof of their car through the sunroof and then we watch it fly off.

This is what they were looking at; sixty acres of land that borders the Gulf Freeway near FM 517.

Right in the middle of this aerial exploration is the now abandoned Creekside Apartments. It is a ghost town.

Months ago, it was filled with 200 low-income families.

Dickinson mayor Sean Skipworth says families living at Creekside Apartments on Deats Road have until January 1st of 2023 to move out,” reported KPRC.

You’ve seen the tv coverage surrounding Dickinson’s highly publicized move to condemn the Creekside Apartments.

But you haven’t heard the whole story and the city of Dickinson may face possible legal trouble ahead for what happened here.

Trouble the fire marshal saw coming last December when the city talked about making the timeline of events at Creekside public.

“At some point this may end up in district or federal court,” read an email.

And we are about to tell you why.

“I feel like I’ve been done wrong. I had a thirty-million-dollar property that is now worthless. I need answers you know,” expressed Ahmet Kalkan.

Ahmet Kalkan runs the family-owned Kalkan Capita. It started small, today 1.2 billion dollars in assets.

The Kalkans say they are in the business of buying distressed properties and trying to improve them. They are credited with reducing crime in apartments they own in the Greenspoint area.

We are looking to provide clean quiet safe and friendly communities to low income housing that’s what we do. We take care of poor people,” stated Amhet Kalkan.

More than 100 apartment projects, none have ever been condemned.

We met Ahmet Kalkan right before the city ordered residents to leave Creekside last November. The city had turned off the hot water after a gas leak in a boiler that served half the complex.

“It was literally a loose bolt that kept that boiler offline for weeks,” recalls Kalkan.

Bolts don’t typically loosen themselves, but adding to the frustration of the owners another boiler serving the other half of the complex was unaffected.

Yet, the city forced those families to suffer for weeks without hot water as they looked for a new place to live.

It was, the Kalkan family fears, part of a long-hatched plan by Dickinson City Hall to target Creekside for destruction. Remove those low-income families, demolish the place it, then take the land for redevelopment.

“It did feel like they wanted possession of the property for what reasoning, I don’t know. It seemed the piece of property was very important to them,” stated Loriza Rubio.

The former manager of Creekside believes the complex was targeted because of where it sits, just off the busy intersection of the Gulf Freeway and FM 517.

Sabotage is a strong word, but that’s exactly the word Ahmet Kalkan uses in our interview. He believes the gas leak last year was no accident.  He suspects foul play and possibly tied to the city’s effort to kill Creekside.

You believe the boiler was sabotaged,” asked Wayne Dolcefino. Ahmet Kalkan responded, “yes, I do believe the boiler was sabotaged.”

Sabotaged because the city wanted Creekside gone.

Creekside was all but destroyed in hurricane Harvey, a developer began to remodel and rebuild but simply ran out of money. Then the Kalkan family came in to finish the job. They say they spent millions on infostructure, wiring, electricity, and apartment interiors.

Old sewer lines produced ugly pictures near one of the apartment units in the Fall of 2021.

We see the Dickinson City Inspector issued four citations. The year before there were a couple more, but she tells us the owners of Creekside always fixed what she asked them to fix.

After those inspections in July, there is record of only one written complaint received by the city about Creekside.

A busted water pipe. Toilet paper. There are no citations issued. The city has no records of any communications between the city and the Kalkan family in the next several months.

But in early May of last year, city inspectors and police descended on Creekside. Getting residents to voluntarily let them inspect inside their apartments. There are allegations city employees told residents not to pay rent anymore.

“City officials literally walked on to our property our private property knocked on doors and convinced the residents to not pay rent,” recalls Ahmet Kalkan.

And in July a private company paid by the city provided pictures of exposed wires, broken handrails and guard rails, pictures of mold on apartment walls, and fire hazards.

The city’s former communications director says the city went to Creekside after a single caller reported she was in the hospital with sepsis because of mold in her apartment, but the city can produce no records of the complaint. And inspection reports both in May and again in July don’t mention where if anywhere the mold was found.

“Our property records did not indicate that we received any complaints in the previous months or weeks,” said Ahmet Kalkan.

The timeline now tells us what really appears to have happened here. The city decided to get rid of Creekside. Then set out to find the evidence necessary  to eventually pull off condemnation, depriving the owners the chance to repair any possible violations of city ordinance.

In June Mayor Skipworth declared in an e mail “I am proud of the work we are doing to get this place shut down.”

By then M.I. Lewis, that social service agency, was suddenly fielding complaints about mold.

“We had a client come in earlier this week with open sores covering her body due to the mold situation at Creekside,” read an email by M.I. Lewis.

We can’t find any other records on that woman and M.I. Lewis won’t talk to us.

In September the building standards commission voted to condemn Creekside, but the folks changed their mind after hearing of promised repairs.

“I’m willing to continue improving this property to your satisfaction, I have no problem with thit,” said Ahmet Kalkan.

But then that curious boiler incident sealed Creekside’s fate. The city refused to turn back on the water even when the gas leak was stopped.  All Creekside residents were forced to relocate.

“Theo, when did you guys decide to condemn Creekside,” asked Wayne Dolcefino. Theo Melancon responded, “that wasn’t me that was the building standards commission.”

“So before then you weren’t planning to condemn it,” continued Dolcefino.

“No sir, we fielded complaints and worked on it,” concluded Melancon.

You heard the city manager’s denial. We had filed a lawsuit against the city to force the release of public records illegally withheld by the mayor. You’re about to see what we found.

“It’s just like a bomb that dropped on your lap you know and you’re thinking okay why,” expressed Ahmet Kalkan.

It is a draft press release dated May 3, 2022, by the cities now former comms director, announcing the planned relocation of Creekside residents.

Theres a quote from the mayor about the strong message they are sending to landlords by shutting Creekside down.

A quote from the fire marshal about the egregious conditions they found.

The mayor responds to the press release, “looks good to me.”

Except there’s one big problem, look at that date again. It was the day before inspectors went to Creekside, owners of the complex hadn’t been given a single citation in almost a year. Not a single warning of anything wrong.

E-mails show the city had already asked M.I. Lewis to help relocate residents.

And e- mails from January 2022 show the newly hired fire marshal was already gathering records about Creekside.

It is to the Kalkan family evidence the city may have set out to kill Creekside because the city wanted their 28-million-dollar property for something else.

“It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing. There’s a lot I could say about it. It’s just the initial question is why,” expressed Ahmet Kalkan.

It’s unclear how our investigation may complicate talks between the Kalkan family and the city about what happens next, because there’s even more intrigue.

The Kalkan’s proposed demolishing Creekside and buying up to sixty acres, all that property that drone was surveying. Designing what would surely be the biggest redevelopment project in Dickinson’s history.

Here are the plans.

A 700-million-dollar project, a nearly three quarter of a billion-dollar investment. A town center, city hall, and the police station would move here.

“We brought the city planners, we brought architects, we brought the investors. We designed the entire project,” stated Ahmet Kalkan.

But mayor Sean Skipworth blocked the planned announcement of the Dickinson Towne Center in the middle of his campaign for reelection. We don’t know why.

And save for a few townhouses that promised big 150-million-dollar redevelopment on Water Street sits almost untouched.

And now there’s Creekside, it sits as a deteriorating ghost town.

You can see how quickly the mayor gets out of the council chambers the other night. He won’t talk to us anyway, but he must watch our investigations.

“There’ve been a lot of hit pieces. I mean – I’m am the dick of Dickinson as everybody heard on YouTube, right. That that’s my moniker apparently,” said Skipworth.

But in all those thousands of e-mails and text messages we’ve looked at in our ongoing investigation of Dickinson City Hall, we did learn his own employees have another nickname for his honor, the “Lord of Dickinsonshire.”

That’s sweet, but I like ours better.

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