Board of Mayor and Aldermen now face decision on Whispering Woods Apartments

Published 10:58 am Monday, March 13, 2017

The future of the Whispering Woods Apartments could soon lie with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

With the city’s rejection Wednesday of an amended plan from the apartment complex’s owner, community development director Victor Grey-Lewis said he will present the beleaguered complex to the board.

“I’m going to have to get them up to speed on this; I don’t know what will happen,” he said.

The new plan submitted by representatives for Whispering Woods LLC, the Delaware-based company that owns the apartment complex, was the second attempt at presenting a plan to fix the apartments, which have been condemned and placed under the city’s slum clearance ordinance.

The initial 19-page plan outlining the rehabilitation project submitted by the ownership was rejected after a Jan. 4 meeting between representatives for Whispering Woods owner Eddie Grosse, Grey-Lewis and city officials.

City officials gave the owners 60 days to develop a new plan. Grey-Lewis said the new plan presented Wednesday, the deadline for submission, was not different from the first, and did not meet the city’s requirements.

He said the city’s order rejecting the plan listed four criteria the owners had to meet to have the plan approved:

• Include a construction schedule with projected start and completion dates showing landmark dates when certain phases of work will be completed.

4 Include a cost estimate of the entire rehabilitation plan.

4 Improve and upgrade fire protection for the entire complex.

4 Include proof the project can be 100 percent financed and the funds are available for the project.

“They did not meet the four requirements,” Grey-Lewis said. “The construction plan was incomplete because they did not include the two pool houses, and there was no construction estimate. They did not show proof the project would be funded.

“We have given Mr. Gosse every opportunity to prepare a plan. They had 60 days to put together a good, comprehensive plan and they showed up at the last minute with something insufficient.”

When Whispering Woods Holdings LLC, which has 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. A Nov. 4 fire heavily damaged a second in the complex.

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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