Blight Authority of Memphis works to tackle blight at the root with neighborhood insight

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rundown homes are a common eyesore throughout parts of Memphis.

The Blight Authority of Memphis, Inc. is working to address those blights but staff members say the real challenge is trying to identify the severity of the troublesome properties.

Inside one abandoned home on Alcy Road, all you can see is the ceiling is caving in, floors covered in debris and the furniture is decorated with cobwebs.

Leslie Smith said this isn’t an unusual sight inside a blighted home.

As the executive director for the Blight Authority of Memphis, Inc., Smith works with neighborhood groups to identify properties. The nonprofit aligns resources to streamline investments to address long-term troublesome properties.

“When I speak with some of the neighbors they are the most relieved when something finally being done about these properties,” said Smith.

But the hard part isn’t always demolition. Smith said they track down the property owners before starting projects.

In some cases, she said the taxes are up to date on the property but the owner’s address isn’t so no one is getting the recurring code violations.

“What happens is what address is left on file is severely outdated and these notices, these condemnations, these requests to mow the grass are sent to the address that they have not resided in for years and I’ve seen where you’ve got properties that have racked up a lot of money in fees due to that,” said Smith.

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But Smith said the process is all worth it when blights like this one are transformed into green spaces.

Two lots on Alcy Road will be a new community garden with help from a neighborhood church and volunteers

“This is the piece I love the most about my job is I’m actually working with community members. I’m out there with them picking up trash, I’m cleaning up these lots and they’re giving me a popsicle because I’m overheated (laughs) you can’t get that anywhere else, and that’s rewarding to me,” she said.

Smith said she doesn’t have any exact timeline for how quickly this community garden will be complete but she said as soon as they finish demolition, they’ll be moving as quickly as possible.

The demolition ceremony kicks off Friday, October 2 at 10 a.m. in the front lot of 2234 E. Alcy Road, Memphis, TN 38114

The Blight Authority of Memphis, Inc. is looking for more properties to investigate, they have a community survey for neighborhood associations. You can fill out their survey at the Neighborhood Blight Report.