VOL. 130 | NO. 58 | Wednesday, March 25, 2015
City Files Blight Suit Over Downtown Property
By Amos Maki
A building on a block that was meant to serve as an example of Downtown’s rebirth is in such bad condition that it is endangering adjacent properties, the city of Memphis claims in a new lawsuit.
The building at 107 S. Main St. is in such poor shape that water is now seeping through its walls and jeopardizing the buildings at 105 and 113 S. Main, the city and Downtown Memphis Commission claim in the suit filed Tuesday, March 24, in General Sessions Environmental Court.
The city of Memphis is suing the owner of 107 S. Main St. over the condition of the building in Downtown’s “Demonstration Block.”
The properties sit along what is known as the Main Street “demonstration block,” a formerly blighted area between Union Avenue and Gayoso Street that the DMC’s predecessor initially targeted for redevelopment around 15 years ago because it was considered the worst part of Main Street.
The city claims the long-vacant building should be declared a public nuisance and that the owner, Long Development LLC, should be forced to make repairs. If the owner can’t make the needed repairs, the city says, the court should appoint a receiver for the property. The city also is asking the court to bar the owner from transferring the property.
The complaint filed Tuesday follows a separate complaint that was filed against the property owner last year and ultimately dismissed by the court. The city is asking the court to hold a hearing on the new lawsuit on April 28.
The chief manager for the ownership entity is Allan Long of Memphis, according to public records.
The owner acquired the property for $280,000 in 1998. The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2014 appraisal is $293,100.
The city claims that the work needed at 107 S. Main would likely cost more than the building is worth, making repairs or redevelopment difficult.
According to an affidavit from veteran architect Antonio R. “Tony” Bologna, who has spent decades helping revitalize multiple Downtown properties, moisture from the building has leaked through its walls and into the adjacent properties, raising immediate public safety concerns.
“Generally there is concern that the building could sustain further damage as a result of the present condition and become a potential problem to public safety if it is not dealt with in a timely manner,” Bologna reported after several tours of the adjoining buildings – Main Street Flats and Cornerstone Flats – where he took moisture readings. The last inspection occurred March 13.
Developer Billy Orgel, part of the team that redeveloped the two adjacent properties, said in a Dec. 4 affidavit that he noticed a hose running out of a window at 107 S. Main, spilling water into the alley below. Orgel’s affidavit also includes photos of the hose dangling from the upper levels of the blighted building.
At Main Street Flats, moisture readings near the shared wall with the vacant property were normal on the first floor but rose to dangerously high level in the basement, according to the complaint.
At Cornerstone Flats, the shared walls in the basement and garage showed elevated moisture levels. Bologna’s report said testing of the remaining upper floors at Cornerstone Flats “did not indicate any relative moisture content.”
Bologna said the high humidity in Memphis, combined with summer heat and a lack of ventilation, could cause the problem property “to lose some of its load-bearing capacity.”