By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Demolition crews on Monday started tearing down the brick buildings long considered an eyesore at the corner of Blair Street and Clayton Avenue as part of a city neighborhood revitalization project.
The Blair Street Apartments could be completely demolished this week depending on the weather. The debris should be cleaned up and hauled away within about two weeks.
Century Construction is performing the work after winning a competitive bid for the job. City Council leaders approved the $74,000 contract last week.
Crews in hulking yellow excavators smashed two of the complex’s three brick buildings by Monday afternoon. A third building stood standing. Once all the structures come down, the city will begin converting the property into a park.
“It was first and foremost a safety issue,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who watched the first building come down. “It takes down a place that had become a hideout for vagrants and thugs and vandals.”
About two dozen city officials also gathered to watch the demolition.
The city purchased the apartment complex, along with two single-family homes on adjacent Chapman Drive, for a combined $376,000 in February. It’s about six acres in all. Municipal crews already have demolished the houses.
“This is a win for the Gravlee neighborhood and the Joyner neighborhood and for Chapman,” Reed said.
Residents of those nearby neighborhoods largely have supported the project. Many had attended a city-hosted meeting in June to help plan the future park.
“A lot of us wouldn’t be here if we could sell our houses, but we can’t,” said Rhonda Franks, who has lived on nearby Rankin Boulevard for more than 20 years. “Our only hope is to improve the neighborhood.”
Some, though, worried a park would attract increased traffic and loitering.
It’s unclear when the park will be developed. The city has some funds remaining in a $600,000 neighborhood improvement account and is expected to budget more funds in the upcoming fiscal year.
The park will have a playground, walking track and other amenities aimed at making the area more desirable to families.