Old mall’s owners sue to stop destruction

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 30, 2002

Battlefield Mall

[08/30/02]The owner of the former Battlefield Village mall filed suit Thursday, asking the Warren County Circuit Court to stop the City of Vicksburg from demolishing buildings and clearing the North Frontage Road site.

The case puts the brakes on a city order issued Aug. 13 that gave J&V Properties 10 days to move on selling or clearing the tract or to put up a bond to pay for demolition in 90 days.

Initially, the appeal will delay any action on the property for another 60 to 90 days.

Mayor Laurence Leyens, who has pushed for renovation of the property since taking office in July 2001, said he expects things to move quickly once the case makes it to court.

“I expect the circuit court to spend about 5 minutes on this, and then we’ll be done with it,” Leyens said.

To get the case going, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a special meeting Thursday to formally approve minutes of their Aug. 13 order so they could be included in the court documents.

Officials with the city’s building inspection department have cited a litany of problems associated with the structure including a lack of water to the building’s fire sprinkler system, damage to the roof and overgrown vegetation on the outside. State law and city ordinance allow municipalities to contract for the demolition of structures deemed “unsafe or unfit for human occupancy” and place a tax lien on the property for the cost.

Representatives of the owner have said a developer is looking at the site and is interested in renovating the building.

“J&V Properties is aggravated by the action of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in denying its request for additional time,” attorneys for the owner wrote in the appeal.

The city building inspector initially issued a demolition order for the 41-year-old structure Nov. 29, but a 180-day stay was granted after the owner said it had a contract pending for development of that site for a Home Depot project.

That deal fell through, and a site off Halls Ferry Road was selected by Ergon Properties, now leveling land for the home improvement store.

At Battlefield in June, work began to remove a former cinema and car repair center not connected to the main structure. That work has since stopped.

“As soon as we get a ruling, we’ll advertise for bids or we’ll start taking it down ourselves,” Leyens said.

Battlefield was among the first and one of the largest malls in Mississippi with major stores such as McRae’s, Sears, Kroger and Walgreens joined by smaller specialty shops and a restaurant. It emptied quickly after Pemberton Square mall opened in 1985.

The building was then converted into office space for federal employees moved from the condemned Walnut Towers building near City Hall. It has been mostly vacant since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District moved to new offices on East Clay Street in 1996.