I have decided that, having been associated with Talltree South, Maplewood Village, and what is now known as the MapleTree Pool in some way for so many years, it is now time to record some of its history and stories. I have begun writing our stories and reaching out to other people.
The stories we have are so rich and interesting, from buying a fledgling condo from developers, through changing demographics and various boards and management companies, through the real estate crisis, and beyond.
There are original owners of Talltree South who may be contacted, and others who came in the 1980s, the 1990s and pre-real-estate-crisis, those that bought in the price run-up, and those who came in more recently and picked up the pieces. It looks as if about half of those who bought at the top are now gone.These figures are not entirely complete but they begin to illustrate some of the trends we have been seeing.
I've started writing and calling people. I've also begun to reach out beyond Talltree South to the other Fairfax Heritage developments. We might also want to pull together the various communities to share stories and best practices, sometime along the way. If you can help, please let me know. Talltree South is Fairfax Heritage X Condominium. Maplewood is IX. They all were built in the 1961 - 1964 timeframe and converted to condos in the late 1970s. What are they like today?
I have recently been impressed with how well our condominium association is running. We have come so far.
I once again have had time to get back to going through the old file boxes, and have discovered more about the bad times the association went through. It is a rare chance to be an original owner and be able to see the big picture of the evolution of a community from conversion to condo in 1978 to the present -- to see that it went through two dark periods and three good periods during that time, and look at the factors that caused these situations.
One of the products of this effort is that I have begun to write up the stories and reach out to other award-winning associations for their stories, and I am in the process of building a website to reveal these to a broader audience. If this excites you, please let me know!
I am thrilled to report that I've found numerous people who remember Talltree South in the early days, and actually have uncovered a stash of records in the shed. None too soon -- the bottom boxes were damp and falling apart, the rubber bands brittle and stuck to the pages, many of which were yellow and fading.
I have talked with Chele Brown, Hugo Brandts, Bob Hennessee, and others. In so many cases, a single person determines the path of the condo for everyone in the association, because a five person board may vote 3 to 2 to make momentous decisions. I have found that Talltree South has had THREE rocky periods, and at least THREE periods of great management. History has already repeated itself.
This has convinced me that the STORIES need to be told. I believe that owners will enjoy and learn from stories even more than from admonishments to get involved. Today, the few determine the nature of the environment where the rest reside. Will those few make it a better place, allow it to deteriorate, or make truly awful, uninformed decisions (even if well-intentioned)? Will they fade away, be missing in action, or get sued? Will be boards be autocratic or humane?
As a really nice note, one Talltree South board from the past had an older woman put spray snow on her windows rather than the obligatory curtains. The board members talked with her and realized that she did it because she could not afford much. They took up a collection from the owners attending the board meeting and used it to buy her the curtains. I can tell you that today's boards would be more likely to enforce the covenants with due process: notices, a hearing, and perhaps a fine.
How did this play out in the real estate crisis? A bank, in its infinite wisdom, "secured" a Talltree South condo unit by turning off its heat, which caused the pipes to freeze and destroyed the unit and damaged neighboring units with a huge flood -- not even realizing that the heat was included in the condo fees, which had to be paid anyway, so they were not saving themselves any money anyway. They even had changed the locks, so the condo management had to break a window to get in, to deal with the flood.
The stories are so compelling! The history of Talltree South from the early days to the present becomes a case study with lessons for all condo owners and managers (not to mention being a fantastic read for those of us who live or lived there). I need your memories, records, and old photos, though! And, does anyone know how to reach Tom Kennedy, Bernard Manning, or the Seven D's?
I will continue to post progress. Call me and I'll fill your ear...
By the way, we are still urgently looking for a new site manager to start next month!!