Community fights to demolish vacant church in South Memphis

Neighbors want blighted church demolished

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There are thousands of blighted properties in Memphis, many of them in South Memphis, but one piece of property has been an issue for people in one community for nearly two decades and they’re fighting back.

The building looks like something out of a horror film, but it was actually once a place of worship well past its glory days.

Now there are shattered stained glass windows, trash bags, old tires, and a pew that once held parishioners now just dangles from the second floor.

“When I look at this building, I think of South Memphis and the plight of South Memphis,” said Marvin Mims who pastors St. Mark Baptist Church located about two blocks away from the dilapidated building on Wick and Mississippi.

Mims says the abandoned building attracts rodents and is a health hazard in the community.

We checked and found 18 complaints about this building dating back to 2015 to the city’s 311 system.

When Mims took over St. Mark Baptist less than two years ago, he decided to make a concerted effort to finally clean up the building.

He and his congregation started a letter-writing campaign, reaching out to their elected officials to get the word out about the eyesore that welcomes them to church on Sundays.

“So for me, it’s a sign of neglect. What I would like to see happen is community members like Pastor Mims to be concerned to get involved to raise the issue with the city and the proper authorities so we can move on this issue,” said Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley who represents this area.

He was one of the many elected officials that got multiple calls from Mims and others at his church and in this neighborhood.

Smiley says thanks to Mims and others this property has been moved to environmental court and the owners of this property have been notified about plans to demolish it.

However, there is no date to tear it down.

“So without COVID this would have been taken care of at least a year ago,” said Smiley.

Environmental court is closed leaving properties like this sitting on the docket.

Mims says this property should have been taken care of long before the pandemic.

City officials say environmental court is scheduled to resume on April 1.

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