A Neighbor’s Plans for the West Alabama Skylanes

The new owner of the 2 “infamous” Skylane apartment complexes on West Alabama is already at work making changes. Montrose apartment investor and real-estate agent Cody Lutsch picked up the 2 foreclosed and red-tagged properties from Enterprise Bank earlier this month. For the 25-unit building at 502 West Alabama (on the corner of Garrott), Lutsch has plans to replace the window units with small ductless split A/C systems, fix some structural issues, switch to monthly instead of weekly rentals, and change the name. Also: He’d like to reduce the crime associated with the property, by adding gates, lights, security cameras, larger trash bins, and maintaining the landscaping.

Lutsch has fewer changes planned for the 32-unit Skylane across the street from Spur 527 at 219 West Alabama (above): He says he’s already begun addressing criminal and safety issues at the property, but otherwise plans to let it run “as it’s been running,” as a pay-by-the-week complex. Lutsch says he hadn’t planned to buy that property originally, but decided the property’s land size, rental income, and location might make it attractive to other investors later on.


Lutsch says he bought the 502 property (photos below) in part to help his “own little subdivision” in Montrose. The Westmoreland townhome he owns “almost directly across the street” is on the market for lease or sale, but he says he’s planning to buy a new single-family home a few blocks away.

Workers are almost finished replacing siding and windows along West Alabama. “In some spots it was so bad you could actually stick your hand inside the units from the outside,” Lutsch tells Swamplot. He also has plans to install faked windows along Garrott St.:

“I’ll be putting up faux shutters/balconies to give it some type of visual appeal as all the units have windows facing the courtyard so from the street it looks like a giant ugly shed. Here [below] is a pic of an apt building only 3 properties away. You can see what they did to make their outside look nicer (as it was just a solid brick wall… but now it LOOKS like it has exterior windows)”:

Photos: Cody Lutsch (shutters); Candace Garcia (all others)

33 Comment

  • Hopefully he will at least paint Crackhead City at 219 a more neutral color. Halloween colors really don’t work so well with apartment complexes. Of course given the ghouls that live there…

  • Thank God he’s not going to tear it down. Finally a historic Houston building being saved. For a awhile there I thought some evil developer was going to ruin the neighborhood by replacing this building with some $400-$500k townhouses or a million dollar McMansion. That would have been disastrous.

  • …”historic” Houston building…?

  • Attn Cody Lutsch: When finished here, please buy up the Skylane Shithole on White Oak and burn it to the ground. I will supply kegs of beer for the bonfire.

  • And Cody, while you’re at it, buy/burn the former Skylane at Hazard and Richmond, another sinkhole of sin.

  • I moved into 219 about a month ago. I am an undergrad working on my BA/history and work FT. Thanks for letting me know you plan to keep the place a crackhead haven and a slum. I’m sure that will help me build my court case in which I will be seeking remedy for all of the safety issues in my unit which are a direct result of the landlord’s negligence. Oh, BTW, the new gatelocks are a joke. The crackheads either prop open the gates for their junkie friends or just climb right over.

  • Newsflash Alex Colvin. You get what you pay for. If you couldn’t tell the place was a dump from just looking at it, then I’m not sure how you made it to grad school.

  • Thanks to Mr. Lutsch. This is in my neighborhood and I appreciate efforts by local property owners to clean things up. Of course he would not be doing this if it did not make economic sense, but frequently (usually?) doing the economically correct thing is also a benefit to the neighbors.

    Some of the other apartment buildings in Westmoreland and Audubon Place look quite nice. Hopefully he’ll bring these places up to the quality of the neighborhood.

  • People act like townhomes are the devil. Get over yourselves. Lets see, what would I rather have next door to my house, crackhead apartments or townhomes? .. HMMM

  • Thank you for fixing up the complex at Garrott. It is nice that people are putting their money where their mouth is, and actually trying to maintain/improve the area they live in. The two Skylanes are really not on par with what is available elsewhere in the area.

    I walk by both complexes every day and look forward to improvements (even if the ones at 527 take a while).

  • Ditto: Demolish 219 W Alabama, please! Or at least get rid of the “weekly” rentals to crackheads . . . . I drive by that craphole building morning, noon and night and the bullshit I’ve seen over the years is truly amazing. Lutsch should be required to live there for a month and have to witness all the slime that he rents to.
    Good luck sucker.

  • Alex: Give me a bit of time, I only bought the property earlier this month.

    When I say I’m going to leave 219 alone for the most part, that’s in regards to the necessary upgrades at 502 to bring it into compliance with the city. I also think that the 502 property stands a better chance of moving from weekly to monthly paying tenants so I’m going to start with that property. Once that property has been converted, I’ll try to do the same with 219.
    219 recently (previous to my purchase) received several structural upgrades and didn’t have the amount of city issues that 502 had. I’ve let the existing staff know they can get whatever they need to fix any deferred maintenance. I’ve been meeting with neighborhood protection and the police and doing the changes they’ve asked for. Mainly adding a locking gate to 219, putting in a bigger dumpster to keep the area clean, and improving the lights. If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

    If people are holding the gate open, there isn’t much I can do about it. In any apartment complex, the neighbors are going to have to help out with safety. If you see the door being left open; shut it.

    Also, all tenants have access to an online system to report any work issues. That URL is http://fatproperty.managebuilding.com From that site you can log in as a tenant, view your balance, make a rent payment, or open/track a work request. If you have any outstanding work issues, put them in the site and I’ll make sure they get done.


  • to JT:

    Newsflash yourself. This place was actually making progress a year ago. Then it fell apart again. 2nd newsflash: location. I like it. 3rd newsflash. The folks living at the complex aren’t the only ones buying / using the drugs; there are lots of yuppies supporting the trade who live in the areas in their condos. Now to Cody: Yes, I will give you a chance. I will also be in touch with Wanda Adams people, and anyone else I can think of including the Neartown police storefront. And finally, why don’t the good neighbors in the area pick up their phones when they see crime or suspicious activity? It got this bad from inactivity. Perhaps it’s less work to just whine about the issues from respectable gated urban dwellings.

  • Alex, it sounds like you’re pissed off basically because the previous owner ran out of money, couldn’t continue his renovation plan, and got foreclosed on by a bank whose only intent was to unload it. Yeah, that sucks, but you need to cool it and engage in reasonable and productive discourse with your well-intentioned landlord.

  • The prior owner of these two Skylanes (and current owner of Skylane North-White Oak and Skylane West) is a total crook from Utah. Truly sad story, family run business that I believe he had good intentions with the renovations but I know that he’s losing each Skylane one at time back to the bank. Better to have Cody (local) own it than some crook from far away.

    Now if someone would buy and tear down that “lake-view” Skylane West apartments when it comes available, that would be great.

  • @ Carrie: Thanks for the kind words. I’m just a normal guy buying some multifamily places in the Montrose area as income properties. I’ve bought about 10 now. I don’t have a huge company or group of investors behind me — it’s just myself. If I was part of a large group, or if banks were actually lending, I’d be buying a lot more as I love the Montrose area.

    I’m trying to upgrade these two quick but I’m limited to whatever cash the properties generate to fund the upgrades. That’s why I said 502 will be the first to receive the bulk of the improvements (and honestly, it was in the most need).

    And as the story states, I do live literally across the street from 502 so I have an extra incentive. I just closed on a new house but it’s only down the street from my current place so I’m pretty committed to the neighborhood.

    If anyone wants to talk to me in person about what I’m doing, I’m often at the office at 502. I won’t be there this week due to a (poorly timed) vacation but I will be there all of next week (and the next… and the next…. :) My email is codybiz at gmail


  • @Matt Mystery: Feel free to e-mail me some color schemes using a paint mfgr color names. I’m terrible at picking out colors.

    I didn’t plan on changing 219’s colors right away since they just painted it (albeit using colors that I wouldn’t have selected) but if someone can come up with a good look for both, I’ll do it.


  • Judgmental much? I’ve known perfectly good people who lived there, albeit temporarily. Consider yourself fortunate enough not to have to had to live there. Everyone needs a home, though I could easily live without your comments and snobbery.

  • The press is excellent Cody! Congrats on the purchases and like others properties we have worked on, you really have a way of tunring deals around. All the best to you in removing the negative stigma associated with the Skylane name. Good Job!

  • Kudos.. and Agreed.


  • What a contrarian. lol.

  • wow.
    (i mean that.)
    during a week of such craptacularly depressing news that i’ve even been choosing to listen to wacky morning DJs over my normal Morning Edition drive to work i find myself feeling superextraspecially uplifted by this story.
    Cody, you, sir, are not a hypocrite.
    i might stop into your office one day just to shake your hand.

    (as somewhat of an aside…this is great example of the aphorism that home ownership is good for society)

  • I know you can do this I seen frist hand the work you have done so just give him the time

  • Is it true pay-by-the-week apartments aren’t actually legal? Don’t they have to be treated as hotels and pay extra taxes?

  • JB: (most) Tenants pay by the week but the rent is technically $585/month. $135 paid every week comes to $585/month over the course of a year.

    Then utilities are billed back every 30 days, so the cost is actually higher.

    What I’ve done is offered everyone the chance to pay $600 monthly (i.e., the typical all at one time, due on the 1st). In exchange for paying monthly on the first, utilities will be included.

    So people can pay less if they are all paying monthly on the first vs. once a week based on their move in date.

  • I have a small business near both of these complexes. I also live very close also. I love the neighborhood except these two properties are ruining the area.
    Last week someone got stabbed and killed in the courtyard of the 219 W Alabama Skylane location. I hope the new owner changes his mind about making fewer changes to it. It need to be completely changed and renovated for it to compliment the neighborhood. It is has affected by business and my neighborhood in a very negative way.

  • @ Casey: As the new owner, I’m working hard to make both (502 and 219) properties better. It’s been about a month that I’ve owned them now. It’s not happening as fast as I’d like (I’m a one man band) but there have been several measurable improvements.
    Regarding 219. I’ve put most of my effort into that building so far. Examples: I’ve already booted about 30% of the tenants. I’ve been heavily upgrading the vacant units (new flooring, new cabinets, new paint/lights, etc.) to attract a better tenant base. I’ve also been decreasing the price dramatically to attract new monthly tenants (vs. weekly tenants off the street) that otherwise wouldn’t want to live there. I’ve upgraded the lighting. I’ve added new limited access locking gates. I have cameras and signs on order that’ll be installed soon. Lastly, I converted one of the units into an office so I could work out of the property and keep a better eye on things.
    These improvements have come at the expense to the speed at which I wanted to upgrade 502, but 502 doesn’t have the same tenant issues as 219. 502 only had a lot of red tag issues from the city which were my first priority (sometimes, the City, rather than the investor or community, dictates your direction and priority list).
    I’m always open to constructive suggestions as to what I can do better. If you’d like to meet in person, I’m often at one of the offices, or my email is codybiz at gmail

  • I think it’s takes guts to do what you’re doing for the Montrose area Cody. BTW, maybe you should get people from the neighborhood to vote on a color scheme.

  • Seen it lately? Oh yes…wonderful improvements. What a bunch of tools. The joke is on the neighborhood. And Lutsch supporters.

  • Good job Cody. I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked and you’re commitment to improving your neighborhood is obvious.

  • From Sandy:

    Good job Cody. I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked and you’re commitment to improving your neighborhood is obvious.

    Yes, well, renovation allows you to “empty the premises” which in this case also “emptied the neighborhood” and you can go to PAX without worrying about what may be lurking around on the sidewalk. For that Cody should get some sort of Good Neighbor award.

  • Niche: Alex’s frustration is entirely understandable. It is frustrating to tenants and neighbors when progress is made, and then stops before it’s finished. “They ran out of money” is no excuse. The previous owners should have sold when they saw themselves running out of money – to avoid having things stall like that.
    Cody: I live nowhere near Montrose, but I lived there when I first moved to Houston in 1998. THANK YOU for buying the property, and best of luck with your efforts to turn around the West Alabama Skylanes. I have all the respect in the world for those who buy problem properties and fix the problems. I only wish it’d happen more often.