By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Two months after the city bought a trio of dilapidated properties in the Clayton Avenue area, work to demolish the structures has begun.
Tupelo Public Works crews on Monday ripped the exterior stairwells off one of the Blair Street Apartment buildings. It will salvage the stairs, along with other materials, to reuse elsewhere in the city.
The Tupelo Fire Department also has done some controlled burning in the structures as part of fire training exercises.
Eventually, all three abandoned buildings will be torn down to make way for a neighborhood park.
Initially, the city intended to demolish the structures using its own labor force but will instead solicit outside bids for the work. Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said the bid process could start next month and demolition could happen this summer.
In addition to the apartments, Tupelo purchased two single-family homes on Chapman Drive, which sits just behind the property. City crews tore down one of the houses last month. The other will be relocated by its previous owner within the next few weeks. In the meantime, municipal department heads have started the early stages of designing the park. It calls for a six-acre green space with basketball courts, children’s playground, half-mile walking track and parking.
“There are ongoing conversations with the Planning Division and the Parks and Rec Department and with citizens about what that area will look like,” Reed said. “We want citizens to be part of the process.”
The city bought the properties for a total of $376,000 with funds from a recently passed bond issue. City Council members voted 5-1 to allow the purchases. Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell was the lone dissenter, saying the city shouldn’t spend taxpayer dollars it doesn’t have to get into the real-estate business.
Other council members, department heads, neighborhood association leaders and area residents support the plan in hopes it will revitalize the area, which has declined over the years.