Tupelo finally gets Trace Inn

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city of Tupelo now owns the former Trace Inn and the 5.5-acre lot upon which the dilapidated structures sit.
A foreclosure sale Thursday on the steps of the Lee County Justice Center capped the city’s nearly two-year struggle to acquire the property before demolishing it.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. was the sole bidder, offering a symbolic $514,929. The city won’t actually pay that amount; rather, it assumes that much in principal and interest on the debt owed to Renasant Bank.
Renasant Bank donated its rights to collect that debt to Tupelo last year, said city attorney R. Brannon Kahlstorf.
“Renasant’s really the hero in this situation because they gave up their right to collect $514,000,” Kahlstorf said. “The win-win was for Renasant to help out the community and help out the city.”
In the end, it cost Tupelo $1, plus an estimated $2,500 in legal fees, to get the site.
Now that the city owns the land, its Public Works Department will demolish the dilapidated structures that have sat vacant for years. They already have been condemned, one of them recently caught fire, and they’re a popular site for squatters – one of whom was chased out by police the morning of the sale, Reed said.
It’s unclear when demolition will occur or what the city will do afterward to the property, which sits on West Main Street near the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Reed said he’ll assemble a team of municipal officials including the chief financial officer, chief operations officer, Public Works director and others to devise a plan. It probably won’t become a park, though.
“Ideally, I’d like to get this property back on the tax rolls,” he said. “We’re open to ideas. If someone in the public says, ‘Hey, I’d like to put up a mixed-used development with apartments upstairs and shops downstairs,’ we’d consider that.”
This is the second-largest site the city has acquired in as many months. In February, Tupelo purchased the former Blair Street Apartment complex and two single-family homes adjacent to that property. They cost a combined $376,000 and will be torn down to make room for a new neighborhood park.
“This is just like the Blair Street Apartments, it’s exactly the same idea,” Reed said. “We’re taking over some of the worst places, demolishing them and starting over.”
The Trace Inn has been vacant more than two years, since its most recent owner, JSK Hospitality, filed bankruptcy after a series of bad decisions and code violations.
Built in the 1960s, the west Tupelo establishment once was a popular destination for tourists and townsfolk alike.
The city has wanted to demolish it for years but decided to try and acquire it first.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com