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http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2009/8/2/503758.html

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- The Vangelakos' southwest Florida condominium has marble floors, a large pool overlooking a river and modern furnishings that speak of affluence and luxury. What they don't have in the 32-story building is a single neighbor.

The New Jersey family of five purchased their unit four years ago, when Fort Myers was in the midst of a housing boom and any hints of an impending financial crisis were buried in lofty dreams of expansion and development. They made a $10,000 down payment and eagerly watched as builders transformed an empty lot into an opulent high rise, one that now symbolizes the foreclosure crisis.

"The future was going to be southwest Florida," said Victor Vangelakos, 45, a fire captain who planned to eventually retire and live permanently in the condo.

Most of the other tenants in the 200-unit condo didn't close on their contracts, and the few that did have transferred to an adjacent building owned by the same company because more people live there.

The Vangelakos' mortgage lender will not allow them to do the same.

That leaves them as the sole residents of the Oasis Tower One.

"It's a beautiful building," said their attorney, John Ewing, who is representing 27 others who made deposits on units. "The problem is, it's a very lonely building."

When the Vangelakos' travel from Weehawken, N.J., to spend a week or a few days in their Florida home, they have exclusive use of the pool, game room and gym, but they miss having a few tenants around.

"Being from the city, it's very eerie," Vangelakos said. "It's almost like a scary movie."

A large, circular fountain in front of the building is dry. The automatic glass doors that lead to the front lobby are locked. On the front desk is a guest sign-in sheet. The last entry: Feb. 13, 2009.

"It's like time froze here six months ago," Ewing said.

Vangelakos said they closed on the apartment in the fall, unaware the other tenants had failed to follow through. When they visited around Christmas, they didn't think much of the emptiness. They were just happy to be there.

"We wanted to believe," Cathy Vangelakos said. "We were looking for what we were offered."

On subsequent visits, however, the building grew more deserted.

The lights on the pool and palm trees were off. Their garbage chute was sealed, a trash bin placed in front of their unit instead.

Despite the empty units, they faithfully parked in their assigned spot on the second story of the parking garage. Then those lights went off, too.

Then there were security concerns. One night, someone pounded on their door at 11 p.m. They called the front desk at the next door building, which contacted police. A search turned up no one, though a pool entrance was open.

Another morning they awoke to find lounge chairs in the pool.

The parents and their children sleep with their cell phones by their beds.

"I'm not a chicken, but this is a big building," Cathy Vangelakos said.

Betsy McCoy, vice president and associated general counsel with The Related Group, which sold the family their unit, said they have tried to help find a solution _ even offering them a unit in the building next door, free of cost, while the situation is resolved.

"They haven't wanted to take us up on that," McCoy said Friday. "They frankly rejected every solution and offer and proposal that we've come up with."

McCoy said some of the interested buyers who put down deposits lost their jobs, others were unable to get mortgages and some were just nervous when the financial collapse came.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area in Lee County has some of the worst economic stress _ a combination of foreclosures, unemployment and bankruptcies _ in the country, according to The Associated Press' monthly analysis of more than 3,100 U.S. counties.

The latest AP Economic Stress Index, which assigns each county a score from 1 to 100 with higher numbers reflecting the greatest stress from the recession, found Lee County had a score of more than 20. Anything above 11 is considered stressed.

Victor Vangelakos said they don't want to move to the tower next door because they would still be paying the mortgage and maintenance costs on the condo they own. They paid $430,000 for the unit and took out a $336,000 mortgage _ essentially spending their life savings.

He'd like for The Related Group to buy them out.

"They want us to be refugees in Tower II," Victor Vangelakos said. "That's not how I expected us to live here."

The family's attorney said he has filed two lawsuits on behalf of would-be tenants because the building wasn't finished as promised. He said they expected a clubhouse, marina, private cinema and restaurants.

McCoy said those amenities could be developed, but were never promised.

On Friday evening, the pool area was dark, most of the doors locked. Cathy Vangelakos and her 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, stepped into an elevator to head up to their unit. "Going up," an automated voice chimed.

"Going up," Cathy Vangelakos said. "That's all we hear."
 

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Lucky
 

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Just crazy.

Makes me wonder what will happen without proper maintenance.
The company probably expects to ride it out, but suppose it takes one or two more years for the crisis to recover, will people still be willing to pay that kind of money to come to this "new" building?

Might as well try and convert it to social housing.
 

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read that article
I can only imagine how it is to live there
creepy !! like a steven king movie setting
 

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The story says the developer offered to move them to the tower next door while the "situation is resolved" and offered other arrangements. It says:
even offering them a unit in the building next door, free of cost, while the situation is resolved.
IMO they are choosing to stay in the building alone. They either need to accept the offer to move temporarily or stop complaining. Yes it is not fair the mortgage company will not transfer their mortgage to a unit next door, but that is not the developers fault. They can still use all of the facilities in their tower and the other tower.

Steve
 

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I would feel less safe now that Yahoo news blasted that we're living alone in a big highrise where no one can hear us scream, lol.
you are right
I would move if I were them
now they are a target
not a good idea to put that in the news
 

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Whats the difference between that and living out in the country?
lol i think that's the point then. so much for highrise living they might as well be out in the country because they're around no one. florida is a funny place though. It seems like every highrise I've ever lived in people are constantly griping about being able to hear the neighbors, noise outside, no place to park, etc. It's like people here want to live in these buildings that hold hundreds of people but still have the quietude of suburbia. Maybe this is like a dream for these people then, lol.
 
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