Super 10 building owners win extension of deadline|[9/19/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The owners of the Super 10 building on Washington Street will have an extra year to renovate the building’s top two floors into apartments, Vicksburg officials said Monday.

Malcolm and Nelda Sampey, who in April 2005 bought the building from the city for $20,000 with a promise to invest at least $20,000 more, had 60 days to begin &#8220material construction” and 18 months to &#8220completely restore” the structure at 1509 Washington St. before it reverted to the city.

The extension came from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen near the end of the 18-month window because of a delay in getting approval from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which did not issue a required Mississippi Landmark Permit for the property until May, said the MDAH’s Brenda Crook.

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&#8220We have permitted phase one of their projects,” which includes exterior work and cutting windows into side walls, Crook said. &#8220If they plan to do any additional work, they would have to submit that for review.”

In their letter dated Sept. 13 requesting the 12-month extension, the Sampeys cited &#8220tremendous delays caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Archives and History and Farm Bureau Insurance,” but said they had obtained all permits from the state and are now waiting only on a building permit from the city.

&#8220As soon as that is received we will begin renovations,” the letter said. &#8220As of today the roof has been replaced, and the entire second and third floors have been cleaned and gutted.”

The building had one existing catwalk supporting a cooling unit extending from a door on the second floor to the city parking garage at South and Walnut streets, and another was recently constructed from the building’s third floor to the roof of the garage.

Currently, the building’s first floor is occupied by Super 10, a retailer. The site, formerly home to Sears, was designated a state historical landmark after the city bought the property as part of its $17.5 million urban renewal plan in 2001. Sites must be at least 50 years old and have some historical significance to earn the &#8220landmark” status, Crook said.

Nelda Sampey was a member of the city’s Architectural Review Board when the couple bought the building last year and was appointed last month to serve as a city representative to the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Malcolm Sampey said he would not discuss the building or the deal with the city.

The city was responsible for all 2005 taxes on the property. The Sampeys will be responsible for taxes beginning this year.

The building was one of about 48 properties initially targeted for acquisition for resale by the city’s plan in 2001, many of them vacant lots and other dilapidated buildings, such as Walnut Towers.

In order for the city to acquire a property, it had to show the property was needed for public improvements or contributed to slum and blight downtown. Officials are allowed to sell the property for less than the public’s investment, but only if the new owner pledges improvements equal to tax funds expended. The city can also set certain conditions, including specifying certain uses for the building.

In order to sell properties obtained through the state’s urban renewal provisions, cities must publish a request for proposals to buy and request information about a potential buyer’s expected payroll, tax revenue and ability to create jobs at the site, said City Attorney Nancy Thomas.

In June 2004, Thad Pratt and River City Properties LLC submitted the only bid to buy the property, for $40,000. Their proposal, like the Sampeys’, was to renovate the property for apartments upstairs and keep the Super 10 store downstairs, but the group decided to withdraw that offer several months later.

The main point of contention was that Pratt had wanted the city to guarantee parking spaces at the former Walnut Towers parking garage for the proposed apartments, but the city declined.

Previously, the city sold the former Alamo Theater building at 1501 Washington St., for $1. The city paid $68,900 for that property, and the plan there with Nelson Cotton Property LLC calls for at least a $200,000 investment.

A third building in the 1500 block, the former Western Auto at 1517-19 Washington St., was sold for $5,000 in January 2004. The city had paid $48,000 for the building, on which the developer, Buford Daryl Hollingsworth, committed to spend $100,000 in restoration.