Memphis has more than 40,000 abandoned properties. Some call it blight, while others call it a missed opportunity.
Many properties, like the one on corner of JW Williams and Decatur, have seen better days.
“No one’s lived here for years,” part-time city attorney Steve Barlow said of the property.
Barlow showed FOX13 an empty 18-unit apartment. He said it’s one of at least 1,000 the city is suing the owners over for back taxes.
“The owner has walked away; died, given up, whatever. Fix it up, pay it up or give it up,” Barlow said.
Further down the street sit two more homes. The only occupants are more plywood.
Brandon Gaitor is the head of the Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. It’s a group that’s fighting to reduce blight.
Gaitor told FOX13 there’s a connection between neglected property and rising crime in Memphis.
“If we don’t have a handle on our property and our real estate, then we really don’t have a handle on our city,” Gaitor said.
On just one street, we found several “missed opportunities.” There are no taxes paid on the empty houses, which could help pay a police officer’s salary. In addition, every empty apartment could help fix a road.
But among the neglect, we did find hope.
A once empty building is being rehabbed into a banquet hall. The owner didn’t want to talk with us, but Gaitor, who’s a friend, explained why.
“She put in new electrical and then a few days later had it stolen,” Gaitor said.
The very problem this business owner is trying to fix is taking from her. Still, she presses on and keeps trying to rebuild the corner of JW Williams and Decatur.
Can the rest of Memphis follow? The Greater Chamber of Memphis is hosting a blight summit later this month. It will bring together public, private and no-profit leaders to help fight blight.