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VOL. 129 | NO. 153 | Thursday, August 7, 2014

Problem Property

Blighted Main Street building has Downtown Memphis Commission president fuming

By Amos Maki

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The city of Memphis and the Downtown Memphis Commission suffered a stinging setback this week in their quest to rid a key section of Main Street of a deteriorating eyesore, one that has survived multiple attempts to be sold and defied repeated orders to clean up.

The 34,300-square-foot property at 107 S. Main St. will remain in its current boarded-up state after the city of Memphis and the Downtown Memphis Commission lost a bid to declare it a nuisance.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The city and the Downtown Memphis Commission brought suit against the owner of the 34,300-square-foot property at 107 S. Main St. under the city’s anti-neglect code, saying the clearly neglected property was a hazard and that it was dragging down surrounding property values in this newly reinvigorated stretch of Main.

But Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter did not agree that the property was a nuisance and dismissed the lawsuit, according to an exasperated Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Morris.

“The city and the Downtown Memphis Commission brought a case to declare the property a nuisance under anti-neglect codes,” Morris said. “I don’t know if we appeal the ruling, if we take another approach or if we give up and let the building be blighted like it has for the past decade. We don’t know what to do yet.”

Alan Long acquired the property via warranty deed for $280,000 in February 1998 via Long Development LLC. Downtown officials estimate it became abandoned some time around 2000 to 2002.

Long did not respond to multiple email messages seeking comment.

After learning that the suit was dismissed, Jason Wexler, a long-time Downtown stakeholder and chief operating officer of the Memphis Grizzlies, took to Twitter to vent his frustrations.

“16 years and counting of boarded up windows and no progress in the heart of Downtown,” Wexler tweeted.

The building is located on Main Street Mall’s Demonstration Block running from Peabody Place to Union Avenue. The Demonstration Block was created by the former Center City Commission, now the Downtown Memphis Commission, to highlight what was then mostly vacant buildings and showcase the untapped potential of the area.

“For years we’ve tried to get that property developed. It’s just embarrassing for our city and it could be developed.”

–Paul Morris
President, Downtown Memphis Commission

Successful enterprises, such as Aldo’s Pizza Pies, Local Gastropub and The Majestic Grille are some of the building’s nearby neighbors who helped turn a desolate, blighted stretch of Main Street into an urban success story.

“For years we’ve tried to get that property developed,” said Morris, referring to the 107 S. Main property, which has lingered for years on the commission’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which highlights properties that are ripe for development or have serious code problems or other violations.

“It’s just embarrassing for our city and it could be developed,” Morris said.

The building has remained in its current state despite sustained efforts by Downtown stakeholders over a period of years.

“He’s got so many good faith offers on it over the years: the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. made an offer, and the DMC made an offer to sell the property for him at above fair market value, and he rejected them all,” Morris said. “We’ve been making offers for a long, long time.

“That property is on the Main Street Mall, very highly visible for visitors and residents, and it’s a sign of neglect that we would just leave that property there just blighted and neglected,” Morris continued. “If he would sell that for the appraised amount, we’ve heard from many parties who could get that property developed. He’s basically holding out for ransom, in my opinion.”

Built in 1910, the property is assessed at $117,240. The total 2014 appraisal for the property – including the land and the building – is $293,100, according to the Shelby County Assessor of Property.

Morris said the owner has a built-in excuse for the property remaining blighted. The appraised value and resulting assessment are low, which helps keep taxes lower, Morris said.

Not only is the condition of the property bringing down its own values, it’s hurting nearby property owners as well, Morris said.

“The tenants and locals around there are all upset about the condition of the property,” Morris said. “It’s vacant and boarded up and it doesn’t have to be that way and it’s deteriorating the value of other properties.”

MORTGAGES 0 49 10,665
BUILDING PERMITS 336 548 21,505
BANKRUPTCIES 256 256 6,219