By NEMS Daily Journal
Steady and cautious progress in demolishing the former Natchez Trace Inn site buildings in Tupelo has dramatically altered the appearance of the West Main Street parcel, and the city is moving ahead with plans to have it presentable and marketable for private-sector redevelopment.
Darrell Smith, Tupelo’s chief operating officer, said Monday razing the familiar three-story building on the west side of the site is complete, and work is moving ahead on bringing down the one-story buildings that formerly were the bulk of hotel rooms on the property.
The property, which went through a legal tangle and tax issues, was purchased by the city after its condemnation.
Smith said care must be used in removing the one-story buildings because they contain asbestos, which is a health threat in some forms.
Asbestos, which is fire resistant, was extensively used in building construction from the 1930s to the 1970s, until it was scientifically linked to certain types of cancer. After that, asbestos use was discontinued in almost all building-related applications.
Purchased for $1 by the city at a foreclosure sale in March 2012, the property had stood vacant and derelict and became a haven for vagrants and illicit activities as a series of legal issues kept its fate in limbo for years.
Renasant Bank donated its rights to collect $514,000 in debt and fees on the property.
In the end, it cost Tupelo $1, plus an estimated $2,500 in legal fees, to get the site, the Daily Journal reported earlier.
The 5.5 acre parcel, like many other business properties, has been through a cycle of boom and bust. The inn was a go-to venue for decades, but location in terms of a hotel and changing preferences in lodging exacted a toll.
The city correctly sees in the site potential for another cycle of profitability and best use in the private sector, but no offers or plans have been finalized. Smith said those decisions will be made after the razing is complete and the appearance more clearly reveals the site’s usability.
It remains adjacent the Natchez Trace Parkway, and since its early years the Ballard Park has become a major site for recreational and competitive sports, especially youth-league events.
The city’s patience appears close to paying off for renewal and revitalization of a property sorely in need of it.