‘Shacks’ turned cottages win city praise

By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tired of seeing the blighted shotgun shacks as he passed the intersection of Green and Jackson streets, interior designer Chris Rakestraw turned them into cottages that city leaders herald as a model for redevelopment.
Standing in front of colorful flower beds, side courtyards and little porches of the five-unit Greensboro Cottages development, Rakestraw, 32, accepted a “Tupelo Forward Award” Thursday from Mayor Jack Reed Jr., only the third since the honor was created in 2009 for private sector enhancements related to development.
While most people passing the property looked at it as an eyesore, the Tupelo High School graduate saw potential in the property.
“I saw a diamond in the rough,” he said, walking through one of the units.
Having bought the units nearly a year ago, Rakestraw designed the interior and exterior makeovers of each.
From placing new windows and doors to switching locations of the kitchen and bedroom in units, he crafted the properties into something that meets his quality threshold.
“I’ve thought about moving into one of them,” said Rakestraw, owner of Christopher Ryan Design Studio.
City officials acknowledged that the property needed repairs before Rakestraw purchased it.
Rakestraw estimated investing about $20,000 into each of the five units for repairs, not considering the purchase price.
He plans to rent the units for $650 to $750 a month, and one is already rented.
Reed, who has stressed the need to redevelop neighborhoods throughout the city, said projects such as this will contribute to attracting more young professionals to the city.
“We’ve got plenty of rental units in Tupelo,” he said. “We just need more of them to look like this.”
A community open house for one of the units, 463 B North Green St., will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Click video to hear audio