Azalea Gardens building to come down

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city will demolish a dilapidated Ida Street apartment building despite a plea from its caretaker to provide more time for renovations.
The 28-unit structure at 1520 Ida St. sits among roughly two dozen units within the Azalea Gardens complex but has been vacant since January after the city declared it unfit for habitation. Since then, the appointed receiver for the property has failed to renovate it to the city’s satisfaction.
Donovan Staley, vice president of the Boynton Beach, Fla.-based Apogee New Dawn, told the City Council on Tuesday that renovations have begun and several units already are complete. But he needs more time to finish the entire building, a requirement before renting any of the units.
Staley also said he hopes to sell the property to an investor afterward and already has had two interested buyers.
His testimony failed to persuade City Council members, who voted 6-1 for the building’s demolition along with that of three others elsewhere in Tupelo.
Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings was the sole opponent.
“It seems like this company should have stepped up sooner,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, who called the apartment complex a problem long before January.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis, in whose ward the property is located, also said the complex has long been neglected. She said the building needs to go.
Tupelo’s Development Services Department first cited the building for drainage issues and other problems in July 2011.
It ordered the entire structure vacated and gave Azalea Gardens until late August to do so, then extended that deadline by one month at the request of management.
When management still failed to vacate the building, the city held a Nov. 29 hearing in which it ordered Azalea Gardens to board it up, secure it immediately and renovate it by Jan. 29.
“It got boarded up finally right before the January deadline,” said code enforcement officer Debra Byrd, who noted that work has been slow or non-existent since then and that communication from the company has been lacking.
Byrd also said at least two other buildings in the same complex could come down at some point in the future.
Unlike the Blair Street Apartment complex, the city is not purchasing the Azalea Gardens building. It simply ordered its demolition. The Public Works Department will assess whether it can take down the structure itself or must contract it out.
A demolition date hasn’t been set.
“This will begin the revitalization and renovation of that part of town,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. “I think the best thing we can do is demolish this building, open this space up and show the rest of the city we’re serious about it.”
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com