Old Confederate Ridge, Crawford and South complexes on way up

Published 11:00 am Friday, March 7, 2014

Three apartment complexes that have been eyesores for years and, more recently, targets of condemnation orders by the city’s Community Development Division, are beginning to make a comeback.
The former Confederate Ridge Apartments at 780 U.S. 61 North, and the Crawford Street and South Street Apartments closer to downtown are under new owners who are taking measures to make them viable properties again.
The Crawford Street and South Street Apartments were placed on the city’s slum clearance list in April 2013. They managed to avoid the wrecking ball several times, and quickly became a home for transients making their way through the city until they were acquired by a Holly Springs lawyer in January.
Now known as the Whispering Woods Apartment Homes, the former Confederate Ridge Apartments were sold at foreclosure in February 2013, and acquired in September by Whispering Woods LLC, a Delaware-based corporation with offices in Florida. The company has been working to upgrade the 152-unit complex and improve its image, which at one time was tainted by problems with drug activity and other crimes, and get three of the complex’s 19 buildings off the city’s condemnation list. All three of the buildings have been removed from the list, Gray-Lewis said Thursday.
The mortgages on the Crawford Street Apartments, 1111 Crawford St., which were condemned by the city in 2011, and the South Street Apartments, also known as the Triple Six Apartments, 1201 South St., which were condemned in 2012, were acquired in January by Kent Smith, a Holly Springs lawyer.
Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis said Thursday that crews were in the process of clearing and cleaning the Crawford Street Apartments and Smith was planning to have fences installed at both buildings. Attempts to contact Smith about future plans for the buildings were unsuccessful.
At one time one of the premier apartment complexes in the city, Whispering Woods fell into disrepair and attracted an undesirable group of tenants and outsiders who came either as visitors or trespassers and sat outside buildings.
“I think what happened in the past (under the old ownership) was that people were just bringing people in here without credit checks, without background checks,” said Eddie Grosse, Whispering Woods LLC managing partner. “Now that we own the property, we’re conducting background checks on all potential new tenants. It’s tapered off since we got rid of so many people. Right now we have some good tenants.”
According to Vicksburg Police Department records, from the end of March 2013 to the end of September 2013, police responded to 238 calls at the complex.
Since the new owners took over in September and began making changes, calls have dropped to a total of 82 through Thursday, police records show. The highest numbers were in October and November, with 24 and 25, respectively, and then began falling.
Grosse added the management team evicted up to 70 people after taking over the property.
“These were people who needed to be evicted,” he said. “Obviously, the people we evicted were troublemakers. We had a lot of break-ins.”
He also credits newly installed security cameras and periodic police patrols with helping keep things in the apartment complex quiet. He said future plans include a gate at the complex entrance off U.S. 61 North.
“The manager has done a great job. He’s gotten rid of the dope, the abandoned cars; he’s awesome,” said one resident who asked not to be identified. “They’re fixing up the buildings. It’s a lot safer. At one time, you’d get robbed if you walked outside. It’s better. I hope they give him enough capital to really fix this place up.”
“We’ve put several hundred thousand (dollars) into this so far, and we still have a long way to go,” Grosse said. “The reason being, this property has been neglected for so long.”
The complex’s three condemned buildings were placed on the city’s list for violations that included electric system problems, leaky roofs and a lack of heat that made them uninhabitable. The two buildings with electrical problems have been repaired to the city code and the condemnation orders were pulled. The roof problems on the third building have been fixed.
Grosse said the repairs to the three buildings are not the only changes at Whispering Woods.
“We’re trying to fix up swimming pools, country club and fitness center, laundry centers,” he said. “We’re going to renovate everything from A to Z. It didn’t get this way overnight, and it won’t all get fixed overnight, but we’re doing a lot of work, we’ve got good maintenance people and we’re going to keep on.
“Structurally, the property’s in excellent condition,” he said. “It was built very well. This was built originally as a resort/country club-type property and ran that way for quite a few years. We hope to make it that way again.”
“They’re trying,” said resident Sharon Banks. “I see people working. I want to give them time and see what happens before I make a decision.”
Another resident who declined to give her name, had different opinion, saying she was planning to move at the end of the month.
“It’s just not worth it,” she said.  “They’ve raised the rent, and they say it will take a year to make improvements. I’m not waiting.”
Another resident said the management “have 101 new rules for you and your children. They’re not doing what they said they would do. They’re not fixing things.”
Resident Jonathon Abogado, who was living at the complex before the new owners took over, said things have improved.
“This place was in bad shape when the (new) company came, but so far all my concerns have been met,” he said. “I like to walk outside, but before, I was afraid to do it. I was concerned about the people hanging outside the apartments. Now I can walk outside, and I see a lot of improvements. Before, I saw a lot of garbage, but now it’s clean and nicer to live here.”030714-crawford-st-apts-js1030714-confederate-ridge-js2030714-confederate-ridge-js5

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About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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