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VOL. 130 | NO. 186 | Thursday, September 24, 2015

Long-Vacant Union Avenue Properties Get Another Day

By Bill Dries

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The city of Memphis and the Downtown Memphis Commission are negotiating with the owners of two vacant buildings in the 600 block of Union Avenue in an effort to avoid General Sessions Environmental Court declaring the properties a public nuisance.

The city of Memphis and Downtown Memphis Commission are negotiating with the owners of two Edge District properties to avoid an Environmental Court showdown.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

A hearing this week before Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter has been delayed as the owners talk with prospective new owners, who have a contract on the properties.

Brewer & Barlow PLC, with the city and DMC, filed two lawsuits Aug. 28, one for 620 Union Ave. and the other for 634 Union Ave. Each complaint specifically seeks a temporary injunction forbidding the owners from transferring the property before improvements can be made.

The lawsuits are the latest in the city’s effort to restore blighted properties, in this case in the Edge District between Downtown and the Medical Center.

A sale to a new owner with an agreement that specific repairs would be made on a specific schedule would amount to a settlement before any declaration of the two parcels as a public nuisance.

Under provisions of the state law known as the Neighborhood Preservation Act, Potter could include in the injunction a requirement that the owners work with the city and DMC on a “reasonable development plan” with a timeline.

Such a plan is usually what happens in Neighborhood Preservation Act complaints with the court monitoring progress every six weeks or so. But if no plan can be agreed on, Potter could appoint a receiver to oversee the property if he determines it a public nuisance.

The structures have been vacant for years and according to the lawsuits filed in General Sessions Environmental Court are “unsafe, unfit for human habitation or other authorized use” and have “unsafe, hazardous and/or unsanitary conditions” and don’t conform with local building and safety codes.

Because of the length of vacancy, the city and DMC claim that the cost of renovating each “would likely exceed the value of the building if renovated.”

The lawsuits name Andrew W. and Barbara B. Arthur of Memphis as the owners of 620 Union since 1994 and Michael Porter as the owner of 634 Union since 2012.

The 620 Union structure was built in 1935. The 634 Union structure was built in 1925. Porter lists his address for tax purposes as a Memphis post office box. The Arthurs’ address is listed as 341 E. Brooks Road.

PROPERTY SALES 157 157 10,093
MORTGAGES 161 161 11,107
BUILDING PERMITS 229 229 22,402
BANKRUPTCIES 54 54 6,365