I-TEAM: Documents show fire safety problems at other complexes

HUD finds issues at half of Cambridge Management's Jacksonville properties

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More apartment complexes tied to the Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments, which suffered a major fire one week ago, have a history of safety failures, the I-TEAM has learned.

The 250 people evacuated when a fire broke out Dec. 18 on the ninth floor of the high-rise on Philips Highway near Emerson Street remain displaced as cleanup efforts grew more complicated when asbestos was found in the fire-damaged walls.

Cambridge Management operates the Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments. The I-TEAM already learned that the company is under investigation for not complying with an order from the state fire marshal to get the complex's sprinklers working properly before the fire broke out.

Five residents and one firefighter were injured in the fire, but fire officials said that flames never would have grown into a life-threatening, three-alarm fire if the sprinklers had worked properly.

Cambridge Management operates six properties in Duval County that are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The I-TEAM learned that half of their properties have been documented as having issues with fire safety.

Federal HUD records show Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments passed inspection in 2014 -- with a score of 93 -- and no fire or asbestos issues were noted. HUD officials told the I-TEAM that positive report allowed for more time in between inspections, but in October, the state fire marshal found a broken fire pump that investigators said as still out of service when the fire started.

You may remember that the I-TEAM investigation into Eureka Gardens exposed a faulty HUD inspection in 2015. Eureka Gardens passed with a score of 86, but after the I-TEAM exposed mold, mildew, crumbling stairs, exposed electrical wires and faulty fire alarms, the score was tossed. When reinspected, 70 percent of the units contained evidence of mold spores.

Cambridge's Timuquana Park Apartments in Wesconnett scored 63 in a 2016 inspection -- a near-failing score and fire safety issues were documented.

The company's Hampton Villa Apartments in Northwest Jacksonville a score of 65, and fire-safety issues were noted.

The Hilltop Village Apartments in Moncrief scored an 85, but once again, fire-safety issues were also found by HUD inspectors.

We don't know what repairs have been made to any of these 

Cambridge Management i based in Tacoma Washington and has a regional office in Tampa. Its website shows it operates 126 properties nationally. The vast majority of them are in Washington state (49) and  Florida (53).

The Better Business Bureau grade for the company is a B- and there are six complaints on file. 

Copyright 2017 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.