EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 15, 2009

Former Red Sox star Mo Vaughn's company buys Lawrence apartments

LAWRENCE — Former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn is coming to bat for tenants of an affordable housing complex on Lowell Street.

After retiring from baseball six years ago, Vaughn, the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1995, got involved in real estate development.

The company he cofounded, Omni New York LLC, recently bought Sycamore Village, a 168-unit affordable apartment complex between Hampshire and Franklin streets.

Beginning next month, Vaughn said tenants can expect the first of what will amount to $6 million in improvements, including new home appliances and major exterior renovations.

"The city wins, the tenant wins, and we as a company win," Vaughn yesterday in an interview with The Eagle-Tribune. "We are a for-profit company, but what we do is very good business."

Sycamore Village, formerly Bradford Apartments, was purchased by Omni, along with two Boston-area properties, for $44 million. The deal was the company's first in the state.

Since forming Omni in 2004, Vaughn and business partner Eugene Schneur, a lawyer, have bought and managed close to 3,000 affordable housing units across New York.

"This is a major reinvestment for the city of Lawrence," said City Planning Director Michael Sweeney. "These apartments are critical for the city to have. And the fact that an established management company like Omni would come in with a plan like this is a major deal."

Residents at Sycamore Village have worried for years about the conversion of their affordable units to apartments renting at market rates, but Omni has made a long-term commitment to keep all of them affordable, Sweeney said.

Omni's plans for the property include spending $2 million to renovate kitchens and bathrooms and the installation of at least 50 new security cameras.

Safety lights in common areas also will be installed.

Part of Omni's mission is to promote "the right style of life" at their properties, Vaughn said. The company has a "zero tolerance" policy for guns, drugs and criminal behavior.

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