When Stephanie Steelman agreed to be property manager for Highland Crest Apartments, formerly Audelia Heights Apartments, it was a sort of homecoming for her.

But the 1984 Lake Highlands High School graduate says initially, taking over the apartment complex wasn’t a career move about which she was excited.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh, no way, I don’t want to get shot,’” Steelman says. “I knew this area. Now, my perception has changed.”

What changed Steelman’s view was the potential that she and Charter Properties III, which bought the property, saw in the complex. Steelman works for Luma Corp. Inc., the company that manages the property. Since the new ownership took over on July 30, the complex, 9842 Audelia Road, has undergone massive renovations and work to upgrade the property and tenants.

Since the transaction, the parking lot has been repaved, all the buildings have been painted and re-roofed, and all apartments are being renovated with new paint, new carpet, appliances and anything else they may need, Steelman says.

The renovations on the outside grounds should be complete in January, and all the apartment renovations will be complete by June. To go along with the new look, there are also new rent rates. Previous rates were $275 to $535. Now they are $305 to $650.

Jim Mattingly, a Lake Highlands resident, says his company Charter Properties III purchased the property because it seemed like a sound investment.

With the renovations, Mattingly says they will be able to attract more stable residents, which will benefit Lake Highlands.

“It’s going to be good for the community,” he says.

Steelman says when she came to the property, it was a mess. Files were in disorder. Some rent rates had not been raised since 1979. Maintenance was minimal – water stains from roof leaks were common, orange worn-down and stained carpets were in the apartments, and olive green appliances were in the kitchens.

Many items in the apartments had not been replaced for more than 20 years, Steelman says.

In addition to the maintenance problems, Steelman says there was no screening process for potential residents. After Luma Corp. took over, each resident had to reapply to renew his or her lease. Credit records were checked, as well as criminal records and rental history. Many residents lost their leases after the check was completed. Other residents chose to move out when the rent rates increased to market value, Steelman says.

Initially, the complex also enforced a 10 p.m. curfew on the grounds to help fight crime, which was high. But since renovations began, problems and crime have decreased at the apartments, and the curfew has been lifted.

Steelman says she knew something good was happening when she saw one of the residents out walking a dog after dark.

“That’s good,” Steelman says. “I know people before did not feel comfortable doing that.”

Resident Frances Bennett moved into the apartments about two years ago because at the time, the price and location were good for her and her daughter and grandson. But the longer she lived in the complex, Bennett says, the worse the situation became.

“We had decided to go ahead and move away,” Bennett says. “The apartments were going down.”

Even after Luma Corp. took over, Bennett says she was skeptical. Then things started changing.

“Everything started happening,” Bennett says. “It was like from foundation to roof.”

Steelman says the improvements at Highland Crest are going to help improve the neighborhood and can have a chain effect with other complexes.

“A lot of good can be done with what we’re doing,” Steelman says.