By Loni Ingraham
She has lived in her three- bedroom apartment for 20 years and now doesn't know from day to day if she will have to move when her lease is up in October.
"I don't want to move," she said. "It will be traumatic."
In May, when residents learned the 55-year-old complex had been listed for sale by the CB Richard Ellis firm as an "investment offering," local Ellis executive vice president William Roohan said that "there is absolutely nothing to worry about."
According to Ellis, every investor who had looked at it was "only looking to improve the property."
But he was talking about the buildings, not about the people who could be displaced when the sale is consummated.
Fleckenstein has asked management if she will be able to renew her lease as usual in August, but she can't get a straight answer, she said.
No one will tell her and the rest of the tenants in the 508 garden apartments who is buying the complex, what is going to happen or when it is going to happen.
The rental office referred a reporter's call to The Wallace Campbell Co., which manages the complex for the Rodgers Forge Apartment Realty Co. partnership, which purchased it after Keelty Co. built it in 1950. Keelty also built the adjacent Rogers Forge townhouse complex.
The management company, Wallace Campbell, declined to comment on the sale.
"Our policy is we can't disclose anything concerning the business of our clients," said spokeswoman Beth Harrington. However, she said she would refer the request for information to the owners.
As of Tuesday morning, the owners had not responded.
Meanwhile, Fleckenstein knows the apartments could be torn down and replaced, gutted and redeveloped as condominiums or continue as apartments.
"The uncertainty is bad," she said. "There are so many rumors."
Fleckenstein can't drive because her eyes are bad. Other tenants who have become friends take her to the library and the Giant. She doesn't know what she will do without them.
And she is worried that she will have to pay far more for an apartment elsewhere.
If the new owner decides to turn the apartments into condominiums, she believes the price will be out of sight.
"Besides, at 82 I don't want to buy," she said.
If the tenants knew what was coming, they could plan for it, said Victoria Sheridan, who has lived in the apartments for three years.
She has a masters degree in theology from Harvard University, but the affordable rent on the three- bedroom apartment that she and her husband lease makes it possible for them to live on just his income and allows her to be a stay-at-home mom for their three children.
Someday they will be able to afford a house, but for now she loves living in the apartments, she says.
"Many of the tenants are foreigners who are here for the short term. It's such an interesting group of people, extremely diverse in a really nice way," she said.
With seniors, single parents, foreign nationals (most of whom are scientists, physicians and nurses at Hopkins or other local institutions ) and cash-poor, intact professional American families like her own, "there is really a great sense of community," she said. "People watch out for each other."
Some residents she has talked to would be eager to buy if the apartments were converted to condominiums, she said.
For Emily Brewster, who grew up in Rodgers Forge and who would like to buy a house there one day, living in the apartments with her husband and two small children is "our way of getting a foot in the door."
It's like living on Sesame Street, she said. "It's a wonderful, amazing place to live. People aren't worried about property disputes and when you go out, it's just a cool cultural interaction."
Young families are resilient, she said, but she is worried about the elderly folks who have lived there for years and about the older workers who have maintained the complex.
"There are people who have spent their lives taking care of it," she said. "I just hope whoever purchases it will really care and tend to it."
It would be a loss to the Rodgers Forge Elementary School if their culturally diverse residents and their children who live in the complex were squeezed out of the market, said Katherine Hinckley.
"It would be such a disservice to the community if it turns into high-end housing" out of reach of the current residents, she said.
Married and the mother of two, Hinckley's family is living in the apartments while their home in Armagh Village across the street is being renovated.
"We valued the apartments as neighbors," she said. "It has always been a quiet place with no problems.
"And now we find it a quiet, decent, clean place to live.
The biggest problem for residents of the apartments, Sheridan said, is that "the rental office is handing out empty reassurances, presumably to prevent a mass exodus, and we have no idea who the buyer is so we can't asked them questions, either.
"We keep meeting people who say they are investors in the project but when they find out we are current residents they become very tight-lipped."