Church organization wants to buy South Street Apartments; current owners say they still plan to renovate

Published 5:36 pm Monday, December 11, 2023

An affiliate of a local Baptist church wants to buy and rebuild the South Street Apartments complex which has been an eyesore for 11 years.

The Living Word Community Land Trust, a nonprofit agency of The Living Word Baptist Church in Vicksburg, wants to buy the property at 1201 South St. and rebuild the apartment complex from the ground up.

Dr. Steve Duncan, pastor of The Living Word Baptist Church, appeared before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Friday seeking the board’s help in contacting representatives of Skyline Innovations, current property owners.

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“We’ve been calling (the company) for six months but have never gotten an answer,” Duncan said. “We want to know the cost to purchase the property.”

The board took no action and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. asked Duncan to send a letter detailing his request to the board.

Skyline bought the property in December 2022 and John K. Hunter Jr., one of Skyline’s owners, said Monday the property is not for sale.

“We’re planning to renovate those apartments and put them back online,” Hunter said. He declined to elaborate on the plans.

Duncan said plans developed by The Living Word Community Land Trust involve tearing down the present complex and rebuilding it.

“We have had our engineers and environmental consultants look at it,” he said. “Our environmental person has looked at it and recommended tearing it down and rebuilding. He said it would cost too much to renovate it.”

Duncan said the church has identified financing resources to do the work. “Once we get the property, we can go to them.”

Also known as the Triple Six Apartments, the 41-unit South Street Apartments complex is located between South and Locust streets in Vicksburg.

The city in June 2012 closed 14 of the apartments because of their condition and later condemned the rest of the complex, putting it under the city’s slum clearance ordinance. That move allowed the city to take control of the property, demolish it and put it up for sale to recover its costs.

Since being vacant, the apartment buildings have deteriorated. The apartments have been vandalized for copper pipe and wiring and used by vagrants as a place to sleep or shelter from the weather. Doors have been removed, windows broken and vegetation is beginning to take over some areas.

In 2014, the apartment complex was bought by Holly Springs lawyer Kent Smith, who intended to refurbish the apartments. Smith put a fence around the building, but it failed to keep transients and other homeless people from getting into the buildings.

Smith was unable to begin refurbishing the apartments and in 2016 he donated the complex to Habitat for Humanity with the provision that whatever happens to the property, it must enhance the city, the South Street neighborhood and the city’s downtown district.

In September 2018, Habitat sold the property to New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Natchez, which owns Washington Apartment Homes LLC. At the time, Washington Apartment Homes planned to begin renovating the apartment complex by October 2019. No work was done.

In December 2022, Washington Apartment Homes LLC, an affiliate of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, sold the apartments to Skyline Innovations.




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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