After financial struggles, Azalea Gardens to have new owners

After years of financial struggles, Azalea Gardens apartments is expected to have new owners this week. The city of Tupelo plans to continue pursuing a lawsuit to demolish 28 units after finding them "unsafe" nearly a year ago. (Thomas Wells)

After years of financial struggles, Azalea Gardens apartments is expected to have new owners this week. The city of Tupelo plans to continue pursuing a lawsuit to demolish 28 units after finding them “unsafe” nearly a year ago. (Thomas Wells)

By Robbie Ward
Daily Journal

TUPELO – A Tupelo apartment complex with a troubled history in the community may change ownership as early as today, but a city lawsuit to demolish part of the property continues.
Azalea Gardens, 1408 Ida St., an apartment complex with more than 200 units, likely will be bought by South Carolina-based Charleston Renovation Group, a company with a history of buying struggling properties with a sketchy history and trying to turn them around.

Azalea Gardens is currently in receivership after continued financial difficulties which include owing thousands of dollars to the city of Tupelo.

Will Irvin, a member of the CRG, said Tuesday the company planned to close on the Tupelo apartment property as soon as today. However, he gave no other comments.

Debra Byrd, code enforcement officer for the city, said representatives with CRG have met with city officials multiple times discussing plans to renovate the troubled property. Currently, the property owes more than $40,000 in rental unit fees and fines to the city. Since the property owes so much to the city, Tupelo code enforcement prohibits the apartment building from renting new units to tenants.

Tupelo City Council members voted in September 2012 to demolish 28 units of the property after a public hearing related to poor conditions at the complex. Attorneys for the property have appealed the city’s intentions. On June 28, an attorney representing the receivership for the apartments requested more time to file documents related to the case.

City officials have cited problems at the complex including concerns about air conditioners and plumbing not working, damage to a building’s roof and crime-related activity.

Tupelo City Attorney John Hill said Monday that plans to continue the lawsuit remain, no matter who owns the property.

“Until I’m told different, we’re going to continue with the lawsuit,” Hill said on Monday.

A resident sitting on the steps at one of the apartment units on Tuesday said only four units out of 32 in the part of the complex where he lives are occupied. The parking lot had deep potholes and mounds of grass growing.

Asked if the place was safe, the 36-year-old man who declined to give his name said, “if you mind your own business.”

Sandra Simmons, apartment manager at Azalea Gardens, said Tuesday that one- to four-bedroom units at the property rent from $390 to $725 monthly and accept government subsidies to help residents pay rent.

“People do want to live here,” she said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com