Rundown real estate: Part 2 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: Alisa Nave, 5/17/04, 10:00pm

Rundown real estate: Part 2

By: Aaron Diamant

William Polk could trim every hedge on his block but it still wouldn't change the fact his well kept place is one of just a few remaining islands in a sea of homes that look deserted and dangerous. "I need the city to help me." Those who own the dozens of abandoned properties in Polk's Klondike neighborhood can't or won't fix them up. So, they just sit, becoming breeding grounds for drug use, vandals or more serious crimes. Three years ago, police found the body of 17-year-old LeCheryl Henderson stuffed inside a trash can behind this boarded up house just two streets over from Polk's. "We can only hope that the city hears our call to take down these abandoned houses," said neighbor William Polk. However, neighborhood leaders say they feel like their calls to Code Enforcement, the department that deals with abandoned properties, don't seem to work. "It has been years that these homes have just been standing and nothing has been done," said Mary Hill with the Klondike Booster Club. The first problem is too many crumbling eyesores and too many roadblocks. Before they can come down, they must be officially condemned. Until then, the city can't clean up or maintain an abandoned property because technically, it's still privately owned. "Once it's condemned we are hopeful that sometime within the next thirty days we will have it removed." Some are, but our investigation found in most cases condemnation to demolition takes a lot longer than just another thirty days. "Could it take months? Certainly. Could it take years? In the past it has taken years," said Johnie McKay with Code Enforcement. "And it still does. Take a look at this. We found this place on Montgomery decorated like a Christmas tree with legal notices. It was finally condemned in March of 2003, but it's still standing." So is the mess on Alaska Street and the house on Pillow Street were both condemned last June. We found three abandoned houses along with hundreds of others, still, on the city's tear down list." "If it's that kind of problem it should be a priority in somebody's book," said neighbor Charlie Morris Junior. We thought so; however keep in mind another problem, not enough money. Hundreds of homes on that tear down list add up to three thousand dollars a pop to tear down. That's, well, you do the math? "This is a thirty year problem, maybe even a forty year problem," said HCD Director Robert Lipscomb. A problem that's been around for forty-years and just landed in the lap of Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb when HCD took over Code Enforcement on April first. "Was it managed poorly before? I'm not going to say that, because that would be judging my colleagues. That's not my role to judge it." However, it is his job to fix it. He has big and expensive plans to spend more than four million dollars dealing with abandoned properties. Next year alone, he will be setting up task forces and opening Code Enforcement offices in the neighborhoods to make sure the money isn't wasted. However, to guys like William Polk say it's all just talk until he sees someone other than himself trying to clean up his neighborhood.

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