Blighted Apartments Razed In Whitehaven

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The Shelby County Land Bank has a backlog of more than 4,500 foreclosed properties they hope will one day find themselves back on the tax-paying rolls.

That's why they're looking to deeding those properties to non-profit organizations like the newly formed Neighborhood Preservation, Inc.

MORE: FOX13 Fight's Blight

Shakespeare once penned, "Parting is such sweet sorrow." But, then he nor Romeo and Juliet would ever have chosen to take up residence amid the dangerous conditions that haunted the former Spanish Oaks Apartments in Whitehaven.

For Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter the blaring sound of bulldozers provided just the right background noise for a news conference celebrating the demolition of 20 acres of adjacent blighted properties that formerly housed both the Spanish Oaks and Winchester Gardens apartment complexes.

"That is music to my ears. I love it," Judge Potter said.

Memphis city and county government in conjunction with Neighborhood Preservation, Inc., are joining hands to fight the blight and lay the groundwork to eventually find potential new buyers for the properties that were foreclosed on because of delinquent taxes more than six years ago.

"Fortunately, the county government has a mechanism for getting tax sale properties into the hands of non-profits for zero, so, that the non-profit can facilitate getting that property back into the taxable tax sale rolls." said Steven Barlow, Shelby County Environmental Court attorney.

"These properties here on each side of the street, if they were fully occupied and if we were getting taxes on these properties, we're talking about at least $100,000 to the city and county on each side of the street per year," Barlow added.

The descendency into oblivion of the once 248-unit Spanish Oaks complex, was never more obvious than in 2006 when a shooting at a nearby convenience store fatally ended with the driver of a car wrecking into one of the apartments before dying. Since 2007, the abandoned structures became an unsightly haven for trash dumping, drugs, guns and prostitution.

"A street that children had to walk down in the morning and in the afternoons going back to very nice apartments behind us," Judge Potter said. "And all sorts of criminal activity occurring here, it's only by the grace of God that those children weren't hurt."

All of the nearly $1 million in demolition costs is being picked up by the non-profit Neighborhood Preservation Group, and they'll be looking for a prospective buyer faster than you can say good riddance.

"We don't take title to anything except for a short period of time," said George Cates with NPI. "We're presently the owner of the property to my rear here, and let me assure you, we want to own it only briefly."