City declares two apartment complexes as slums

Published 9:10 am Friday, December 30, 2016

Two Vicksburg apartment complexes have been placed under the city’s slum clearance ordinance, the city’s community development director said.

Community development director Victor Grey-Lewis said the Whispering Woods Apartments, 780 U.S. 61 North, and The Ridge Apartments, 420 Lake Hill Drive, were placed under the ordinance, which allows the city to take over a building, renovate or demolish it, and sell the property to recover any costs.

“Whispering Woods and The Ridge are similar in that they have absentee landlords who are not keeping up their property,” he said.

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He said Whispering Woods owner Eddie Grosse is expected to appear at a hearing on the property Wednesday. Chuck Parker, owner of The Ridge is scheduled to have a hearing Feb. 22. Under the ordinance, property owners must present a plan to either renovate or demolish the property.

Repeated attempts to contact Grosse and Parker were unsuccessful.

Grosse answered his phone on one call, but said he was on another line and could not talk. Subsequent calls were answered by a voice mail. One call to The Ridge’s manager’s office was answered by a voice mail. A second call was answered by an office employee who said Parker, who lives in Southaven, was out of the office and would be back Monday.

“Whispering Woods has been a problem for the past three years,” Grey-Lewis said. “We have four standing condemnations on the property. The fourth condemnation was campus-wide, because the city cut off water service because the bill had not been paid.”

He said Grosse has paid some of the outstanding water bill, but under city policy, the water cannot be turned on unless the bill is paid in full.

He said The Ridge Apartments has vacant buildings, broken paving in the parking lot areas and illegal dumps in several locations.

A tour of the complex showed several vacant buildings with broken windows. One building had a sheet of plywood covering the doorway.

When Whispering Woods Holdings LLC, a Delaware-based holding company with offices in Florida, acquired the property then known as Confederate Ridge in February 2013, company officials made plans to improve the complex and change its image from an area where crime and drug sales were common occurrences.

Police calls dropped, and Grosse said in a March 2014 interview the company evicted 70 tenants soon after taking over the property. Two buildings condemned by the city for electric code violations were repaired and the condemnation order on them removed.

Grosse added the company was going to repair the complex’s two swimming pools, club and fitness center and laundry center, and the buildings would be renovated.

Almost two years later, in January, the city condemned 37 units at the complex after building inspections revealed a series of serious city and state building code violations and unsafe conditions for residents, and residents complained about poor maintenance and mold in the apartments.

Another set of units were later condemned after a sewer line collapsed on the back side of the property.

In February, an eight-unit apartment building was destroyed by fire. The complex’s 4-inch PVC waterlines prevented firefighters from quickly getting water on the blaze, Fire Chief Charles Atkins said after the fire, adding the minimum standard size line for fire protection in an apartment complex is 6 inches.

The building was neither rebuilt nor demolished after the fire. The burnt remains are still standing. The charred structure is not the only damaged building.

A trip through Whispering Woods reveals vacant apartments, many with broken windows and missing roof shingles.

Vacant apartments in the rear of the property are littered with rubbish and trash, and the walls have been torn down revealing the frame.

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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