By Traci Moyer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — One year after it was sold, renovation work on the Tower Place is almost complete.
Purchased in 2013, the 43-unit apartment building was sold in a public auction for $100,000 to Youri Frakine.
Since then, $250,000 of the $450,000 budget planned for the project has already been spent, Frakine said. And, unlike the previous owners who lost the property to foreclosure, the funds for all the work being done to the building are coming straight out of Frakine's pocket.
"It is being done with actual funds," he said. "We are very conservative people. The previous owners had tax credits and took out a second mortgage and they really got upside down."
Frakine said from what he can determine of the records left in the building, there was a 15 percent vacancy rate.
"They had no money to repay anything," he said.
A plan of revitalization
In the last year, most of the labor intensive work has been done, but installation of flooring and other renovation work is still underway. A new geothermal system is in place and an advanced security system is being installed.
Five handicap rentals are scheduled for completion by July 1, and Frakine said he plans to open the first five floors for rental by the end of the summer.
Each apartment unit has central air, heat and included utilities along with wireless internet. Although the final numbers are not set, rent for the apartments will be about $550 to $625 a month, Frakine said.
"We want to get rid of the old stigma attached to the building," Frakine said. "The goal right now is to start renting them out at the beginning of September."
A family business
The building was purchased, in part, thanks to the work of Frakine's oldest child, Katya, who is only 15.
"I just like the elevator," she said.
Frakine said his daughter, who started scouring the Internet for properties at the age of 11, tours the sites and tells her father what she thinks he should pay for them. Katya's uncanny sense of business has proven successful and, once purchased, the family sets about to restoring the properties.
Frakine's wife Olga said that when they were contemplating a bid on the building they never imagined they would win. Olga, who manages the finances for the renovations, said there was never a plan to buy the building. It just worked out that way.
"We thought, let's try it," she said. "Why not? But we were in shock when we got it. One second we were happy, the next — what are we going to do with it?"
"Fix it," Frakine said with a laugh.
Frakine and his family, who are originally from Russia, said it was funny how they ended up buying properties in Anderson.
"It's the weirdest story," he said. "In 1991, I was going to Heron School of Art to study art and my print making teacher invited me to have dinner. He lived in Anderson in a Victorian house."
The years passed, and Frakine took a job as a building inspector, then began inspecting federal homes that had fallen into foreclosure. He was a frequent visitor to the area.
"In 2004, I thought, 'Wow, Anderson is coming up,'" he said. "And in 2007, when the bottom fell out of the markets, Anderson remained steady."
Frakine said Anderson's biggest recession hit in the 1980s and the city had stabilized itself before the rest of the country started to experience a sharp downturn in the economy."
"It was a recession-proof city," he said.
Some of the changes Frakine is considering for Tower Place include combining apartments on the 12th floor to create living quarters with two bedrooms and two balconies.
The family says they enjoy working together to restore historic buildings, and they have been surprised by some of the things uncovered during their renovations.
At the Tower Place, one of the discoveries was a secret staircase.
Frakine said the stairway had been walled up at some point and buried between two floors — untouched.
Today that stairway leads to a single apartment, but Frakine said it is perfect for his future plans which include a living area for an onsite caretaker of the property.
"It will be a comfortable place to stay — very safe," he said of the apartment building.
The first floor of the building will have a community room to allow residents to gather with one another, but Frakine said the space could be used for anything.
"I want to see what my clientele demands," he said. "If they don't want to hang out with a pot of coffee, we will do something else."
While his wife said she wants to make sure the project is completed on time, Frakine he has bigger plans.
"We will be bringing people back downtown. That is what matters," he said. "And the city of Anderson is also doing a lot toward that."
Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.