Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen waives building fees for apartment renovation project

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved a request from a Madison company to waive building and utility tapping fees to help the renovation of the former Confederate Ridge Apartments at 780 U.S. 61 North.

The board granted the conditional approval at its Monday meeting. Paul Evans and John Laughlin with Eastbrook Property Management LLC, the developers for the project, said they anticipate a minimum $4 million investment to renovate the apartment complex’s 160 apartment units, gym, pool house, clubhouse and maintenance building.

The board in March approved an ordinance allowing the city to waive the building permit fees, application fees, tapping fees and utility connection fees for any developer investing $4 million or more in new construction or renovations in the city.

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Evans said the company acquired the property in January and began work on the renovations in April.

According to a letter from Laughlin to Mayor George Flaggs Jr., the project’s first phase included the leasing office, six buildings containing 48 two-bedroom, two-bath units.

All the units, according to the letter, will include stoves and refrigerators, dishwashers, stackable washer and dryer, tankless electric water heaters, Wi-Fi and key and combination-style security locks.

“We are set to start leasing out the first phase in November,” Evans said.

“We’ve got 24-hour shifts going on right now,” Laughlin said, adding the apartments are being gutted and the property is being landscaped.

At one time one of the premier apartment complexes in the city, the Confederate Ridge Apartments fell into disrepair and developed a reputation as an undesirable place to live.

The apartment complex was sold at foreclosure in February 2013 and acquired in September 2013 by Whispering Woods LLC, a Delaware-based corporation with offices in Florida, and the new owners began making changes to improve the apartment complex, which at the time had a reputation for drug and criminal activity.

But the property again fell into disrepair, and residents complained about problems with mold and leaks.

City officials in early 2016 condemned the apartment complex after the apartment owners failed to pay its water bill, and Entergy later cut off electrical service after the complex was condemned.

A fire in February 2016 destroyed a building, as did subsequent fires in March and May of that year. A fire in November 2016 heavily damaged a building.

When city and county firefighters arrived at the May 4 blaze, they found it fully involved and used what water they had to save two adjoining buildings.

In December 2016, the property was put under the city’s slum clearance ordinance, and the owners had to prepare a plan to either demolish or rehabilitate the apartment complex.

Two plans to rehabilitate the property were presented by the company to the city, but both were rejected because they did not provide cost estimates, a construction schedule or proof of financing for the project.

In August 2017, Rockwell Building & Design of Beverly Hills, Calif., and World Trade & Exchange Holdings of New York acquired the property from Eddie Grosse, owner of Whispering Woods LLC, and announced the construction of a condominium development on the property. The new owners also asked for a small portion of property located in the county to be annexed into the city.

Work on the condominium development began, but was later stopped because of financial problems.

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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