By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tupelo taxpayers may own soon a mostly vacant 221-unit apartment complex on Ida Street.
City Council members voted 6-1 to negotiate with new owners of Azalea Gardens, a low-income, multifamily housing complex with a history of crime and city code violations.
The property has been in receivership since 2007 after Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit for $9.3 million owed for the property. A South Carolina-based company with a history of buying struggling properties recently bought the property. However, council members have other plans for the apartments with about 40 units occupied.
Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan said the city still has to negotiate a price with current property owners and will disclose more details after acquiring the land.
“We’re going to do a fair negotiation with the owners,” Bryan said.
In September 2012, the city agreed to demolish 28 units on the property after a public hearing found poor living conditions. Attorneys representing the property owners appealed, resulting in no demolition.
Mayor Jason Shelton said he had mixed feelings on plans for the city to buy the property but believes it will help improve quality of life. He will not veto the council decision but said current residents living at the apartments shouldn’t worry about getting kicked out anytime soon.
“I will absolutely oppose any efforts to displace any citizen,” he said.
Council President Nettie Davis, whose ward includes part of Ida Street, said she has worries about displacement of residents there but sees a better future for the more than 7 acres of land.
“When you have empty buildings you’re going to have crime and other things undesirable,” she said. “It will be revitalized.”